One of Donald Trump’s favorite lines throughout the nomination battle is that he’s funding his own campaign. Meaning, in essence, he can’t be bought because he’s already bought everything. Trump’s tales of bootstrappy financial self-reliance out on the campaign trail were, of course, only partly true. Trump enthusiasts gobbled it anyway. And the Donald kept on serving it. But now that race is turning toward the general that could easily mean a campaign tab of more than $1 billion, can Trump still lay claim to his well-crafted mystique as a financially independent renegade? Not so much.
“I’ll be putting up money, but won’t be completely self-funding, as I did during the primaries,” Mr. Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. During the primaries, Trump actually lent—not gave—his campaign $36 million of the $47 million it has spent through March. That means Trump could actually pay himself back for what he’s spent so far, which would mean that Trump didn’t self-fund his campaign even a little bit. Even if the repayment plan doesn’t end up happening, Trump’s campaign so far has been relatively low cost. It’s much easier to keep costs down when you get an estimated $2 billion in free media. (Sorry.) Trump likely doesn’t even have a billion to spend.
So what does that mean for brand Candidate Trump? Well, it’s about to look very, very similar to every other political campaign complete with extensive fundraising and an unleashed super PAC. From the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Trump is planning to use his expansive personal Rolodex to ensure his campaign has the resources to compete against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in November… The campaign is also beginning to work with the Republican National Committee to set up a joint fundraising vehicle… The super PAC backing Mr. Trump, meanwhile, is also seeking to ramp up its fundraising operation. Eric Beach, Great America PAC’s fundraiser, said super PAC officials have received about 75 calls, mostly from donors, since Mr. Cruz exited the race on Tuesday evening. The group plans to add dozens of staffers to its payroll and will announce new members of its finance committee in the next weeks.
“Beginning to actively solicit donations, while a super PAC backing him also ramps up his activity, means the billionaire will no longer be able to attack his Democratic opponent in the general election for being beholden to special interests and wealthy donors as he did in the primary,” the Journal warns. “The move is also likely to put off some Trump supporters, many of whom have said his self-funding makes them trust him more than other politicians.” The alternative scenario is Trump and his supporters just keep on truckin'.