“I will have, in my race, more than $100 million put in of my money,” Donald Trump said during the second presidential debate in St. Louis. “By the time it’s finished, I’ll have more than $100 million invested.”
Except, judging by his filings with the Federal Election Commission, Trump has donated just over half that amount to his campaign with just two weeks left to go until Election Day.
At this rate, he will fall short of his pledge by about $44 million, or the cost of six of his private helicopters, unless he cuts himself a check sometime in the next 14 days, something his past financial behavior this election suggests is unlikely.
That the Republican nominee seems to have lied or, at best, exaggerated is unsurprising.
But if he fibbed on this particular topic, he violated a fundamental part of his platform (to the extent that he has a platform). After all, his pledge to self-fund is the thing he says sets him apart from every other politician, most of all Crooked Hillary, whom he claims is beholden to the special interests who cut her checks.
Of course, Trump has donors, too, thousands of them across the country who give money to a self-proclaimed billionaire for a variety of reasons. But Trump also believes (or believed?) that by investing in himself, he’s showing he’s better and bigger than Clinton in another way. Why, he asked her onstage at the debate, won’t she similarly invest in herself?
So what accounts for Trump’s campaign budget shortfall, if he’s so proud of using his wealth to attempt to send himself to the White House?
Does he no longer believe in his own cause?
Weeks of bad press followed by somehow even worse press have damaged him. He trails Clinton nationally and Texas—Texas!—is in play for the Democrats. FiveThirtyEight projects an 85.4 percent chance Clinton will win. He was so mad after the last and final debate that he ripped up his notes onstage.
Does he now think he’s a bad investment? Or does he not have as much money to throw around as he’d have us think?
His campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast, and he still has not released his tax returns, so it’s impossible to say with any certainty.
From June 2015 through the end of September 2016, Trump donated $56 million to himself, according to records, or an average of $3 million per month.
He also makes in-kind donations of Trump Tower rent for his employees and his campaign office space to the campaign for tens of thousands of dollars a month. Not to mention, his campaign pays Trump businesses, an unprecedented advantage he has over Clinton, who doesn’t own any restaurants or private airplane companies. In September, Trump paid Tag Air, Inc., of which he’s CEO, $319,496, Trump Tower Commercial LLC received $169,758 for rent, and over $4,000 to Trump Restaurants, LLC for meeting expenses and meals.
But the presidential campaign has also lost Trump money. Macy’s, Univision, NBC, and Serta all cut business ties with The Donald. Meanwhile, according to Fortune, the first half of 2016 saw a 60 percent drop in bookings for his hotels.
Perhaps that’s why Trump’s sole donation to himself this month, according to the available records, came on Oct. 20, in the amount of just $2,574. Clinton gave her own campaign more money in October, $36,627, according to her filing.
Trump has $34 million cash on hand, while Clinton, who leads him by an average of 6.1 points in the national polls, has $59 million.
“The fact that all he’s given to the campaign in October is $2,500 certainly could be perceived as indicating that he’s given up on his own campaign and isn’t willing to put anymore of his own money into a losing effort,” one campaign finance expert said. “Why would anyone else?”