“I don’t need your money, I never took any of your money, you have no control, bye bye.”
That was Trump last July, criticizing his opponents for accepting campaign contributions from SuperPACs, lobbyists, and other big money special interest groups. It’s a message that has played extremely well with his supporters, one that he’s used time and time again as a weapon against his foes.
I really like the Koch Brothers (members of my P.B. Club), but I don't want their money or anything else from them. Cannot influence Trump!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2015
Last summer, Trump attacked Jeb Bush for accepting more than $100 million in donations from rich donors. “These are highly-sophisticated killers,” Trump said of the donors, “And when they give $5 million, or two million or a million to Jeb, they have him just like a puppet. He’ll do whatever they want, he is their puppet.”
A few weeks later, he went after Hillary Clinton on Twitter, saying, “Many of Hillary’s donors are the same donors as Jeb Bush’s—all rich, will have total control—know them well.”
To his supporters, Trump looked like a guy who wanted to get big money out of politics. Heck, he was even willing to self-fund* his campaign! (*That is, if you consider loaning yourself $36 million and then writing it off on your taxes “self-funding”.) So Trump fans must have gotten quite the shock earlier this week when news broke that The Donald had agreed to enter into a joint fundraising deal with the Republican National Committee.
The new deal sets up two different political action committees, better known as PACs. The first, known as the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, will split its funds between Trump’s presidential campaign and the RNC. The second, known as Trump Victory, will raise money not only for the Trump campaign and the RNC, but also for the Republican parties in 11 states that signed on to the agreement (Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming).
Why sign on to a joint fundraising deal? Well, the main reason is that you can raise a lot more money that way. Under current campaign finance laws, the maximum direct contribution an individual can make to a campaign is $2,700. Trump Victory, on the other hand, allows contributions of up to $449,400 — more than 160 times the normal limit.
Of course, raising money isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. It’s estimated that the Clinton campaign will spend well over $1 billion on the election, so if you’re a Trump supporter, you might see the RNC fundraising deal as a necessary evil if Trump wants to have a fighting chance against Hillary in November.
But here’s the thing: only a tiny fraction of the money raised by the Trump Victory PAC will actually go to Trump’s campaign. If you were to make the maximum $449,400 donation to Trump Victory, Trump’s campaign would get just $5,400 — less than one percent of the total donation. The other $445,000 would be divided among the 11 states involved in the deal and the RNC war chest.
The hypocrisy of the deal is hard to miss: after spending the past year running on a promise to seriously shake things up in Washington, Trump has now agreed to raise money for the gatekeepers of the Republican establishment.
Do you really think that the RNC will use their portion of the Trump Victory money to help elect more anti-establishment candidates to Congress? Or is it much more likely that the money will go towards re-electing the 300+ Republicans who already hold seats in Washington, many of whom are the very same establishment politicians that Trump has lambasted throughout his campaign?
During the Republican debate last August, Trump made the following statement about campaign contributions:
“I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people before this — before two months ago I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. That’s a broken system.”
Now, with the Republican nomination all but secured, Trump seems ready and willing to become a part of that broken system himself.