Cold Calls

07.17.15 6:05 AM ET

Inside the Mind of a Trump Donor: ‘I Was Probably Drunk’

The Donald has raked in $96,000 so far, and from birther beliefs to ‘the immigration thing,’ the characters who contributed to that haul are a lot like the candidate himself.

You learn a few things, calling the 63 individuals who donated more than $250 to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign—helping him pull in a total of $96,000 in the 29 days since his June 16 announcement, according to the financial disclosure he released Wednesday evening.

You learn, for instance, that President Obama, who is an African-born Muslim, wouldn’t help you if you were kidnapped in Iran, that not all undocumented Mexican immigrants are rapists but many of them may be, that it’s unfair to expect billionaires to use their own money to run for office when less wealthy candidates aren’t expected to, and that the willingness to file for bankruptcy multiple times is a sign of a great businessman. But what you learn, most of all, is that the characters propelling America’s greatest political curiosity upward in the polls are a lot like the man himself.

The day started with Francine Aton, 62, Michigan, retired.

“You work for The Daily Beast—which is a more left-wing web-magazine,” she began. “I don’t want something to come out that’s slanted.”

Aton, who said she has a degree in journalism, has little patience for reporters and detects liberal bias in the most innocuous of statements.

Asked why she supports Trump (to the tune of $250), she said, “Because he speaks the truth, he’s honest, and he can’t be bought.” So she likes him, I said, because he’s wealthy and that means—“Listen to how you just slanted that question!” she cut me off. “Is Hillary wealthy? Yes, she is!” Well, what I meant was—“Just say what you mean! You’re slanting your story.”

I explained that all I was trying to do was figure out why she supports Trump. “Why do you support him?” she asked. Uh, I don’t, I said. “Donald speaks the truth. Thank you, goodbye.”

She hung up.

Next was Timothy Doody, 51, Colorado, real estate appraiser.

“I don’t know,” he said when I asked why he donated $500 to Trump. “I don’t know why I do half the things I do. I was probably drunk.”

He laughed. “I’m just kidding. I just think it’s refreshing…I just wanted to make a statement, that’s all.”

Doody explained that he’s a “conservative-leaning person” but a registered Democrat. Mostly, he sighed, “I just am fed up with politicians. I do know [Trump’s] negatives and I do know what he’s done as far as supporting Democrats via his corporations and supporting both parties.” But at the end of the day, Doody said, he liked that Trump could “rabble-rouse” and “make waves.”

Trump’s position on immigration, Doody admitted, was the central reason he made the donation, but he also believes Trump is the best person to repair the economy and to change the course of American foreign policy for the better.

And speaking of immigration, “The other candidates totally took his words out of context,” Doody said, referring to Trump’s claim that undocumented immigrants coming into America from Mexico are “rapists.” Doody said he listened to Trump’s statement “probably 10 times” to see if he had missed it, but in the end came to the conclusion that “he didn’t call all Mexicans rapists.”

In Trump’s absence, Doody guessed he could find another candidate to support. “Probably Ted Cruz, Governor Walker, maybe, and Rand Paul…I don’t understand Jeb Bush.”

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Then came Damien Drab, 41, New York City, CEO of Loughlin Management, a company that “delivers a broad range of operational and financial consulting services with a results-oriented approach,” as opposed to all those consulting firms who strive for no results at all.

I told Drab I wanted to talk about his $500 donation to the Trump campaign. He laughed. “Good, I hope that helps with my golf club membership.”

Is he a member of a Trump golf club? “Uh, I can’t comment on anything, really,” he said. “I have one statement and that’s: Why should anyone use their personal money for public affairs?”

Further, Drab went on, it is “unfair” and “ignorant” to tell Trump he needs to use his personal wealth for his race when “everybody else who runs gets contributions.” Because “there’s no inherent personal wealth risk for people who run,” Drab said, there shouldn’t be one for a billionaire, either. Whether he needs the money is irrelevant, Drab argued, because “if you believe in Trump, you should contribute.”

Next was Mike McNerney, 73, California, funeral service provider.

“He’s the greatest thing running,” McNerney said when I asked about his $500 donation to Trump, which he called “just a show of support.”

“I think he’s gonna win,” he told me. “I think he has a pretty good chance. I mean, people are outraged at the way Obama Hussein has run this country.”

McNerney said he likes Trump “because he’s nonpolitical. He tells it like it is. He’s truthful, and he has more experience than being a short-term senator before he became president.” What kind of experience does Trump have, I asked. “At life and management, and I’m sure he has more foreign experience, which Obama Hussein has ruined.”

McNerney agrees with Trump on immigration “absolutely, 1,000 percent,” and believes those expressing disapproval of his statements are “manipulating the press for the benefit of opposition against any sensible immigration policy that comes along.”

I asked McNerney, who repeatedly referred to the president as “Obama Hussein,” if he thought Obama was Muslim. He said, “I know he is.” I asked if he thought Obama was born in America. He replied, “No, I don’t. Probably Africa.” Where in Africa, I wondered. “Wherever his father and his white mother were living.” Kenya? “You got it,” he said.

And Dr. Dane Wallisch, 64, Pennsylvania, radiologist.

“Why did I do it?” Wallisch said when I asked about his $2,700 check to Trump’s campaign. “I think he would be a very strong leader, and I think that’s what we need now. I have very similar beliefs to Donald Trump. I agree with him on just about everything.”

Wallisch agreed with Doody that “the immigration thing, I think, the media took that way out of context.”

He explained that having lived in Mexico for a time, he knows that the government there is corrupt. “Of course there’s good Mexican people, but there’s bad with the good,” he said. And the unsecured border, he told me, is “an open door for terrorists, as well.”

“Trump just speaks what’s on his mind and I like that,” he said. “I think it’s refreshing. It’s time people say what they felt rather than just what people want to hear.” Wallisch apologized for “getting on my soapbox here,” but admitted it was hard to avoid when talking about Trump. “I like him and I hope he becomes president.”

Why donate to a billionaire, though, I wondered. It’s not like he needs it. “True, probably true,” Wallisch said. “But that was my way of saying, ‘I support you.’”

Without Trump, Wallisch said he was sure he could find another candidate to support. “I think there’s a lot of good people running this year. I like Ben Carson—you know who Ben Carson is, right? I like Rand Paul, but he won’t make it. Scott Walker. Bush is all right, but three Bushes? I don’t know. Makes me a little leery.”