Yesterday, Donald Trump sent his supporters a fundraising solicitation that trumpeted a record-setting pledge toward his own campaign. “No candidate in presidential history has ever made this type of commitment” — $10 million.
With apologies: WRONG!
(Cue Dr. Evil’s pinky…. “Ten Million Dollars!”)
$10 million is not the record for a self-funding presidential candidate. Not even close. A quick look at the amounts spent by self-funders reveals Trump’s last-minute contribution as paltry and pathetic.
Of course, that’s not all that surprising coming from a flimflam man known for “mine’s bigger!” bluster. Many of Trump’s boasts are at least a little cock-eyed, but this one wins the chutzpah prize.
Ross Perot spent $102 million (all numbers in this column are in 2016 dollars) of his own money in his third-party presidential race in 1992, and Steve Forbes spent $49 million of his fortune on his quest for the Republican nomination in 1996.
Even self-funding candidates for lower offices can spend more than $10 million. For example, California candidates regularly give their campaigns endowments that trump Trump’s. Republican Michael Huffington spent $45 million in his Senate race in 1994, and four years later Democrat Al Checchi funded his gubernatorial race to the tune of $59 million. Then there’s the $159 million Republican Meg Whitman spent in her 2010 governor’s race.
(All three lost.)
Even mayoral candidates have made far larger personal commitments to their races than Trump. In fact, Michael Bloomberg spent more than $100 million of his own money three times, in his trio of winning races for mayor of New York City.
Trump’s donation looks even punier when you consider his net donation to the campaign by subtracting out the income Trump received from the campaign – from office space to personnel to restaurant meals. Since Trump for President had already spent more than $8 million on Trump businesses by late September, it’s probably fair to call this new donation a wash.
Or consider the percentage of his fortune he’s committed, which helps measure the sacrifice he’s making to help his own cause. Based on Forbes’ $3.7 billion estimate of Trump’s net worth, he has committed three-tenths of one percent of his assets. If Mike Pence pledged a similar proportion of his net worth, he’d need to cough up $571. How much of your money would you need to donate to show you’re “all in,” at least as much as Trump is, through Election Day?
The candidate’s false bravado about “record-breaking” self-funding is typical of his improvisational campaign, in which truth is an afterthought. Yet here again, nobody calls him on his lies. I’ve scoured the Web and strangely, no journalist but me has compared the extent of Trump’s self-funding compared to that of Ross Perot.
Trump’s last-minute donation should remind us of something that’s gotten lost in the rush of the election. Self-funding his campaign was what Trump promised to do all along. Remember “I can’t be bought?” How sad that it takes this eleventh-hour nickel-and-dime donation to remind us about where we began: with a big Trump lie he figured we’d forget, and indeed we did.
Not this time.
David Benkof is Senior Political Analyst at The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.