In the month after clinching his party’s nomination, the billionaire businessman raised just $3.1 million and has loaned his campaign $2.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
The campaign has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at Trump’s own businesses, on products branded with his name and in direct payments to members of his family.
His cash on hand is a paltry $1.3 million. That stands in stark contrast to the Clinton campaign, which announced a haul of nearly $26.4 million. Her cash on hand rang in at $42 million.
Even Bernie Sanders, whose campaign is all but over, ended the month with $9.2 million cash on hand—seven times more than Trump—after raising $15.6 million in May. In fact, former candidates Ted Cruz and Ben Carson still have more cash on hand, as do House members running for re-election, including Peter King, Joe Kennedy, and Lee Zeldin.
Still, in a statement issued Tuesday, Trump made dismissed there was a problem with having less money than a mildly competitive congressional race. Because, he's rich. Remember?
“If need be, there could be unlimited “cash on hand” as I would put up my own money, as I have already done through the primaries, spending over $50 million dollars," he said. "Our campaign is leaner and more efficient, like our government should be.”
Despite his appalling fundraising figures in May, Trump boasted on Twitter at the end of the month that he was setting new financial records. Yet the documents indicate there’s not even enough to buy a condominum in Trump Tower, where a bare-bones one-bedroom starts at $2.175 million.
The stunning financial disclosures come at a rocky time for Trump’s presidential ambitions. His campaign manager was fired and escorted from Trump Tower on Monday. Months of bullying and assault accusations had been ignored, but the real-estate mogul finally took action against Corey Lewandowski, who was paid $20,000 for his work in May, when it became clear that Trump’s poll numbers were sliding in the swing states.
His lead in Ohio has been wiped out, while Clinton has moved 8 percentage points ahead in Florida.
Trump’s lack of fundraising success has a direct effect on the way he is able to fight for the White House. He has a staff of just 70—one-tenth of the campaign team assembled by Clinton. Since he effectively secured the Republican nomination in May, Trump has not broadcast a single TV ad.
There have been $117 million spent on ads for Clinton ($21 million directly from her campaign)—most of which have been slamming Trump in the key swing states, for his record of denigrating women and mocking a disabled reporter.
With virtually no spare cash on hand, Trump has no choice but to challenge generations of presidential election wisdom and ask: “Do ads work anymore?”
Barring a dramatic turnaround, the new FEC numbers suggest we’re about to find out.
The presumptive GOP nominee has bragged throughout the primary process about his ability to self-fund his campaign, but the reality of the general election set in quickly. He held his first fundraisers the week of May 20, telling the Associated Press he was only doing it because the Republican National Committee asked him to.
“The RNC really wanted to do it, and I want to show good spirit,” Trump said. “’Cause I was very happy to continue to go along the way I was.”
The RNC is desperate for Trump to up his game because they are also struggling to match the 2012 moneymaking pace. In May of that year, Romney and the RNC said they collected $76.8 million between them.
At the end of May 2012, the RNC had a $60 million cash on hand warchest (with $9.9 million in debts). This year they have just $20 million on hand with debts that rose from $5 million to $7 million from April to May.
It’s not just the weak Trump fundraising game that should alarm supporters; the way the money is being spent has also raised eyebrows.
Analysis by MarketWatch suggests that around 20 percent of Trump’s campaign expenditures went directly to Trump-owned businesses or family members.
Trump’s campaign spent $423,371 on catering and renting space at Mar-A-Largo, Trump’s Palm Beach private members club where he also has his own private home.
Another company making a killing from Trump’s run for president is TAG Air, a company that leases private jets. It was paid $349,540 last month. Trump is chairman, director owner, and president of TAG Air.
There are also several payments listed for thousands of dollars directly to Donald J. Trump. One, for $15,000, is marked as rent, the others are listed as “payroll,” although it would be highly unusual for a candidate to pay himself a salary.
The campaign also spent money at Trump Plaza, Trump SoHo, Trump Café, Trump Grill, Epic Trump Wine Manufacturing, Trump Restaurants, Trump National Golf Club, Trump International Golf Club, Trump International Hotel, and Trump Ice.
Even before the latest extraordinary FEC disclosures, an experienced campaign-finance attorney told The Daily Beast that the Trump campaign’s spending pattern is unprecedented.
“It’s very common for candidates to loan money to their campaign. It’s even not unusual for a candidate to have the campaign purchase goods or services, usually rent, from an entity that’s owned by the campaign. But the scale here is completely different,” he said.
The Trump campaign has spent no money on TV ad buys and just $115,000 on online advertising. It seems to be more reliant on the old-school face-to-face persuasion technique of heavily branded clothing.
The campaign-swag investment included almost $700,000 spent just last month on T-shirts, mugs, and stickers. Those infamous “Make America Great Again” baseball caps came in at an addtional $208,000.