Cui bono?

The Trump campaign is flaming out spectacularly. His campaign financials have been released, and, much as I hate the way politics is priced out of reach for most people, he’s a loser.

Donald Trump’s campaign is almost broke, and is paying an unusual amount of money to Trump-owned businesses. That’s according to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s FEC filing, details of which were released Monday night.

The report provided a number of rather shocking facts, including that his campaign raised just $3.1 million in May compared to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s $27 million.

Even worse, you might wonder where that small sum of money is going. It’s going to Donald Trump, of course.

He’s also paying himself a salary, which is really weird for a billionaire running for president, and one of his biggest outlays is $208,000…for hats.

This is a joke candidate, right? Either that, or it’s the ultimate end game of capitalism: a guy paying himself to promote himself to become president of the US.

At least I’m becoming less worried that an inflamed orange hemorrhoid will be elected president.


  1. Cuttlefish says

    His campaign is the functional profit-making equivalent of Grand Fenwick’s declaration of war against the US. Trump, then, is The Mouth That Roared.

    (Alas, due to the Q-Bomb, Grand Fenwick actually won. We must not let the Donald get whatever the metaphorical equivalent of the Q-Bomb is.)

    (References are to Leonard Wibberly’s 1955 “The Mouse That Roared”, for those who have not read it.)

  2. carlie says

    But I thought he was self-funding his campaign because he’s a billionaire! He’s not beholden to donors! That’s what he said!

    But seriously, I wonder if this will be the big impetus for the convention to nominate someone other than him. Gives some wind to the sails of that idea, if the rest of them can agree on a single person.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I like to think he is deliberately trying to break the Republicans by spouting off incoherent sound bites he gleened from other more prominent republicans. Shocked that voters are rallying behind him, that people actually want the leader to go completely off the rails and smash through all the walls (*) surrounding us.
    While this might be a fine story (speculative fiction), I can’t imagine any kind of “exit strategy”. Here’s hoping he does get the opposing party to rally en masse to prevent his ascension. *fingers crossed*

  4. Russell Glasser says

    When Trump spent the first half of this campaign telling everyone “I’m very very rich, that’s how you know I can’t be bought,” obviously what he meant by using the passive voice is that OTHER PEOPLE can’t buy him. The campaign was an investment. He never said he wouldn’t use the rightfully-earned profits of becoming a more high profile celebrity to pay for himself.

  5. specialffrog says

    One way to think about Trump is that he is basically a con artist. He uses his image as a wealthy, successful business man — an image that is at least significantly illusory — to get people to pay him for not really doing anything except further selling his brand.

  6. Gaius Baltar says

    I doubt that money really makes a difference in politics. Jeb Bush and Sanders proved that when they each tried to buy their respective primaries and failed.

  7. lotharloo says

    @Gaius Baltar

    That’s only true for presidential elections or big elections where candidates can get free coverage. For local elections, money is basically the most important thing ever. If you can drown your opponent in negative ads without them having the money to retaliate, you then have a huge advantage.

  8. qwints says

    This is particularly amusing given the many trump supporters I saw online crowing about how their candidate didn’t need donors, large or small.

  9. pedantik says

    I do worry. Those who support him are still very vocal, and seem to be absolutely refractory to any negative information concerning their candidate. Let’s not be complacent about this maniac.

  10. penalfire says

    Still interesting to see people write as if any of the alternatives are
    less ridiculous or dangerous. Mitt Romney is a Mormon and Paul Ryan
    worships Ayn Rand. A huckster demagogue might be the least ridiculous or
    dangerous of these choices. No budget could be more incoherent than Ryan’s
    to abolish basically every government agency that helps the population.

    Putting the presidency on the random setting might be better than carefully
    planned war mongering and upwards redistribution of wealth.

  11. petesh says

    @13: Random setting is something I use on iTunes and produces some interesting deep dives and juxtapositions. It also throws up shit I kept for historical reasons. (I don’t think I ever actually, um, listened to Metal Machine Music all the way through, and if I did I apologize to myself.) The non-trivial chance that a random American might be nuttier than mama’s fruitcake is too scary for me!

  12. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    @carlie: “I wonder if this will be the big impetus for the convention to nominate someone other than him.”
    I’m not at all sure that is possible. The convention delegates elected to nominate Trump are committed by party rules and in some cases I believe by state law, to vote for him on at least the first ballot. If they do, he’s in. It is only when there is no winner on the first ballot that delegates are free to change their votes, which results in that wondrous thing, a “brokered convention” in which wheeling and dealing proceeds on the convention floor, and multiple votes are needed, with breathless TV commentary. I think I can remember one of these from my childhood but it has been decades.

    Not saying it would be impossible for the R. party to somehow find a way to jigger their party rules at the last minute in some way to block a first-ballot win for Trump, but doing so would make the party leadership look like petulant jerks and alienate a major segment of their grass-roots support. Still, an actual brokered convention, with Trump, Cruz and Rubio supporters trying to assemble a majority on ballot after ballot, would be a FABULOUS spectacle.

  13. says

    Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Trump’s FEC filing and his stunningly weak war chest.

    Maddow made the point that the Trump campaign’s previous FEC filing was also bad. This month’s filing shows him in even worse financial straits. In other words, he is slipping into a pit.

  14. blf says

    Related — at least in the sense it’s about how odious teh trum-prat is — today’s dead tree edition of the International New York Times pointed out there is an all-but-direct connection with McCarthy, What Donald Trump Learned From Joseph McCarthy’s Right-Hand Man:

    For [Roy Cohn, “Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red-baiting consigliere”], who died of AIDS in 1986, weeks after being disbarred for flagrant ethical violations, Mr. Trump was something of a final project. If Fred Trump got his son’s career started, bringing him into the family business of middle-class rentals in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Cohn ushered him across the river and into Manhattan, introducing him to the social and political elite while ferociously defending him against a growing list of enemies.

    Decades later, Mr. Cohn’s influence on Mr. Trump is unmistakable. Mr. Trump’s wrecking ball of a presidential bid — the gleeful smearing of his opponents, the embracing of bluster as brand — has been a Roy Cohn number on a grand scale. Mr. Trump’s response to the Orlando massacre, with his ominous warnings of a terrorist attack that could wipe out the country and his conspiratorial suggestions of a Muslim fifth column in the United States, seemed to have been ripped straight out of the Cohn playbook.

  15. blf says

    I wonder if this will be the big impetus for the convention to nominate someone other than him.

    I’m not at all sure that is possible.

    It is possible, Donald Trump said it’s illegal for delegates to change the rules on him, but it’s not:

    [G]iven his clear win in the primary [sic] and nabbing the majority of delegates, such a move would violate party rules and election law, Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press when asked about whether delegates at the convention could stop him.

    I don’t believe that. I think that’s the press. No. 1, they can’t do it legally. No. 2, I worked for one year, and we won all those delegates, Trump said. […]

    Trump has a point that this would be against the current rules, but those rules won’t necessarily govern this year’s Republican National Convention. If the delegates decide to change the rules in July and thwart his nomination, it may seem anti-democratic. But it’s within their authority to do so.

    At the heart of the matter are the 112 members of the rules committee — a man and a woman from each state and the District of Columbia. They determine convention guidelines and have the power to change the rules when they convene in Cleveland.

    The committee has the power to make various moves, such as passing a “conscience clause,” imposing a supermajority rather than a majority threshold, or releasing all the delegates to support whomever they want rather than the candidate who won their state’s primary or caucus.

    I’m not quite sure how 2 × 51 = 112, but ignoring that possible math error, other sources make the same point: The convention can change the rules. Using this so-called “nuclear option” is actually quite unlikely, but it does exist, and apparently has been tried before (The GOP’s nuclear option: how Trump could be denied the nomination even with a majority).

    Also, Dump Trump? Paul Ryan leaves door open to Republican convention revolt (“As the highest-ranking Republican in Congress, Ryan will serve as chairman of the party’s convention […]”). However, that’s another odious lying git, so I assume he is actually wrangling for a position in a trum-prat administration.

  16. says

    Hillary Clinton gave a speech on economic issues today. She provided details that show Trump to be a bad businessman and an irresponsible business manager.

    “He’s written a lot of books about business. They all seem to end at Chapter 11.”

    Trump apparently cannot run a campaign with a good financial structure.

  17. Saad says

    “He’s written a lot of books about business. They all seem to end at Chapter 11.”

    We need ice and aloe vera ASAP.

  18. says is a new website that provides the details of Trump’s failures in business.

    Some excerpts:

    We’re not here to begrudge Donald Trump’s mediocre success. Good for him. But here’s the thing: Donald Trump is a below-average successful businessman who got rich by hurting a lot of people.

    He’s Mitt Romney but bad at his job. […]

    Between 1997 and 2002, revenue at Donald Trump’s Atlantic City casinos fell by 1%. Non-Trump Casinos averaged an 18% rise.

    According to the Times, if Trump had matched his competitors, he probably could have turned a profit. Instead, his casino company never logged a profitable year. Which has a lot to do with why Trump drove his casinos into bankruptcy four time.

    “People underestimated Donald Trump’s ability to pillage the company. He drove these companies into bankruptcy by his mismanagement, the debt and his pillaging.” –Sebastian Pignatello, who once invested $500,000 in Trump Casinos.

    “The Trump name does not connote high-quality amenities and first-class service in the casino industry. Rather, the failure to pay one’s debts, a company that has lost money every year, and properties in need of significant deferred maintenance and lagging behind their competitors.”
    –Lawyers for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Trump’s investment bank.

  19. Crimson Clupeidae says

    In a perfect world, this whole charade would lead to Trump, personally, having to file for bankruptcy, and with any luck, some jail time.

    Unfortunately, our system is rigged such that the adage by Heinlein is true: “People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy a half slug who must tighten his belt.”

  20. Crimson Clupeidae says

    BTW, reading about all these bankruptcies at Trump casinos makes me feel really good knowing my (wife’s) grandmother won a Mercedes from Trump tower (after spending less than $50 in slots). The same day, she won more than $8k in cash, which covered the taxes on the Mercedes.

  21. futurechemist says

    @blf 19

    How much power does the RNC have to change the rules? I was under the impression that many of the delegates are bound to Trump because of state law.

    More information at ballotpedia

    Maybe the missing 10 delegates to get to 112 are for various territories like Puerto Rico and Guam?

  22. carlie says

    I’m not quite sure how 2 × 51 = 112,

    Ah, blf, that’s just Trump math, as you can see in this interview wherein he insists that 16×7 is not 102, but 112.

  23. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    @blf, thank you for posting that item; I was just coming to do the same. However, there’s a point that I think it and other commentaries are overlooking. For delegates from states that chose them by caucus, yes, their obligation to vote for their declared candidate on first ballot could well be removed by a party rules committee.

    However, in numerous states including California where I live, the delegates for each party are chosen by official ballot in an election run by the state. Their support for a candidate was spelled out in their election pamphlet statement, and voters relied on that when choosing which delegate to elect.

    Now, IA definitely NAL, yet it seems to me that if an elected delegate failed to do what he promised the voters to do, that would be some kind of official malfeasance. Courts do not take kindly to post-hoc negations of official election results, or to people lying in official ballot statements. I think such considerations about elected delegates may be what lead Trump to use the word “illegal”.

    Your thoughts?

  24. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    No, actually, I see where there are legal arguments the other way. However, I still think that an angry Trump voter in California could sue either a delegate, or the state, for deception. A spate of such suits would keep the whole kerfluffle going for months and keep the candidacy of not-Trump in question right up to election time.

  25. Nick Gotts says

    Just an Organic Regular Expression@27,28

    It seems utterly bizarre to me as a non-American that the way a political party selects its candidates is a matter of real, legal-type judicial law! Does that apply to other parties than the Democrats and Republicans? Could a party say – “No, we’ll run our primary ourselves, thanks very much, and if we want to change the rules afterwards, we will”?

  26. robro says

    Obviously you don’t get 112 from 50 states plus DC. It includes territories: America Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and possibly Republicans abroad.

  27. stwriley says

    carlie @ #26

    Umm…16 x 7 is 112. Fortunately, when I followed your link, it turned out you’d just made a typo. Trump was insisting that 17 x 6 =112, when of course it equals 102.

    I think Trump applies a similar math to his personal “fortune”. That’s the real reason he won’t release his tax returns and that his campaign is broke now: he doesn’t have anything like the wealth that he likes to pretend he has.

  28. robro says

    By the way, Trump got to be the presumptive nominee without spending a ton of money. He just made a lot of noise and got a lot of free media attention from everybody, including MSNBC and Maddow. You know, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Why should he change his game plan now? He’s the smartest business there is. You heard him say so.

    Also, his behavior is fueling the “Manchuria Candidate” conspiracy theory…he’s a rogue plant from the DNC and is throwing the election.

  29. says

    In 2000, he told Fortune magazine, “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”

  30. robro says

    Lynna — I’m sure he did. Despite his many business failures, he insists he’s a great businessman. Of course, he’s hardly the first presidential candidate to make money off the campaign. I read in the WP today that Ben Carson has millions in donations sitting around. And then, there’s the money they make after the campaign whether they win or lose.

  31. laurentweppe says

    Either that, or it’s the ultimate end game of capitalism: a guy paying himself to promote himself to become president of the US.

    Or Trump is secretly a hardcore Marxist doing his best to demonstrate the proles that capitalism can only lead to rule by parasitic hucksters.
    At that point, even that stupid conspiracy theory makes more sense that the reality we live in.


    Anyway, an interesting thing is that french magistrates are currently breathing down fascist heiress Marine Le Pen’s neck because she tried to pull that type of shit…
    Except she was slightly more subtle about it: she built a moderately complicated structure to try to hide the fact that she was embezzling public money: basically the French government will -up to a capped amount- pay the campaign expenses of every candidate who won more than 5% of the vote: Le Pen therefore ordered her party’s candidates to buy campaign material (posters, tracks, etc…) at inflated rate from companies owned by figureheads and personal friends, telling them that since they’d win more than 5% of the vote, their campaign spending would be reimbursed.
    But the core principle remains the same: she’s paying herself (with public money) to promote herself.

  32. ck, the Irate Lump says

    laurentweppe wrote:

    At that point, even that stupid conspiracy theory makes more sense that the reality we live in.

    Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.

  33. archangelospumoni says

    Shouldn’t somebody be forming “Shithead Cracker Goon Rube Racists For Trump” corporation and then expecting a few checks?

  34. says

    Honestly, it’s not, and has never been, Trump himself that scares me. I have never, in my life, been able to take Donald Trump seriously, and I never will.

    But his campaign is terrifying to me, and there is one main reason for that:

    His followers.

    Somehow, Trump has managed to whip up some of the nastiest bigotry I’ve seen. Granted, that’s from my perspective as a privileged cishet white dude. I’m sure there are many who aren’t cishet white dudes who’ve seen this long before Trump.

    In a twisted way, I also sort of fear for the Republicans. I think they are done. I don’t see how the party survives this (although, to be fair, I’m sure there’s a lot of things I don’t see, here, as I’m not, and never will be, a Republican).

    But more than that, I’m afraid for the general election.

    To be honest, I don’t actually expect Trump to win the general (while I do pretty much see him as the presumptive Republican nominee at this point). What I truly fear, honestly, is what’s going to happen when Clinton wins. I am terrified of how Trump’s horrible fans will react to that.

  35. quotetheunquote says

    #38 Nathan.

    Agree that Trump’s Brownshirts, and what they might do, are much more of a worry than the man himself.

    But as for the GOP being “done”, I am highly doubtful. It is amazing what a political party can come back from. Think Barry Goldwater, Republican nominee in 1964 – lost all but two states. Then, in 1968, you ended up with Tricky Dicky, by a landslide.

    Of course, it’s a complicated story, involving political assassinations (both literal and metaphorical) on the Democrat side, but it just goes to show quickly things can change. . The sixties were, indeed, an interesting decade.

  36. Brother Ogvorbis, Fully Defenestrated Emperor of Steam, Fire and Absurdity says

    I have mixed emotions watching this implosion.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think President Trump would be a global catastrophe. I just hope that the implosion reaches its zenith (yes, I know I am metaphor-mixing there (or, at least, I am really scrambling my imagery)) AFTER the GOP convention. If his implosion continues at its current pace, the GOP may decide to bid No Trump and pick a less toxic radical right-wing extremist. Which would mean that poor Cleveland could be the site of a GOP civil war. Which, though I like Cleveland and bear no animosity towards the citizens thereof, would be an 11 on the schadenfreude scale.

    So, please, Trump, hold your shit together until you are the actual nominee. Then implode. Please.

  37. Meg Thornton says

    I’d love to say I was at all surprised, but really… the man’s been bankrupt four times, and I’d bet (if I had any money to bet with) he’s going to use this campaign as his excuse for number five. That way, if he wins, he gets to be President and will almost certainly get the US treasury to pay his creditors. If he loses, he still gets to declare himself “bankrupt” (and yet somehow retain all the assets he uses to fund his multi-million dollar lifestyle…) and get all his creditors off his tail (and thus wins anyway).

    Once a con-artist, always a con-artist. He’s still within range of pulling off the best scam ever attempted.