Trump dismisses campaign fund-raising deficit with Clinton as #TrumpSoPoor hashtag trends

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally at the Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas, on June 18, 2016.
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally at the Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas, on June 18, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump dismissed a huge fund-raising gap with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Tuesday (June21), saying he could always tap into his personal wealth if he needed more cash for the campaign.

The New York real estate magnate lagged far behind Clinton in May, raising US$3.1 million (S$4.2 million) to her $26 million, according to federal disclosures filed late on Monday.

Trump, who self-funded his primary campaign, more than doubled his previous monthly hauls after holding his first general election fund-raiser on May 26.

Trump spent much of the primary shunning donations, telling his supporters not to contribute to his campaign and ridiculing his opponents for accepting donations from special interest groups and wealthy contributors.

The unorthodox candidate, who is still struggling to get full backing from the Republican Party establishment, is betting he can run a race that builds on his low-spending, insurgent primary operation. "I can go a different route, I could just spend my own money, have a lot of cash and do like I did with the other and just spend money on myself and go happily along and I think I win that way," Trump said on Fox News.

Trump said he raised US$12 million during the weekend for the Republican Party.

He has loaned his campaign US$46 million since launching last year and did not rule out tapping his personal wealth again. "I may do it again in the general election," he said on NBC's "Today" show. "But it would be nice to have some help from the party."

With spending that outpaced inflows, his campaign began June with just US$1.29 million in cash, well-behind Clinton's US$42 million war chest.

The figures underscore the huge money advantage Clinton is hoping to enjoy leading into the Nov 8 presidential election, one that could allow her a large staff and millions of dollars of television and digital ads in battleground states.

Trump's meagre May haul drew a flurry of taunts on Twitter on Tuesday morning, including a #TrumpSoPoor hashtag mocking the billionaire. One post joked he had listed his Mar-a-Lago estate as an Airbnb rental, a platform often used by people trying to earn cash off their homes.

MONEY IS NOT A PROBLEM

Trump advisers said they were not concerned. "Guess what - Mr. Trump is a billionaire," Tana Goertz, a Trump senior adviser, told CNN on Tuesday. "Money is not a problem."

Trump's allies have said the cash is now "pouring in" for the general election. For months, the biggest cash injections into his campaign coffers were from his personal bank accounts.

Trump still may have several hurdles to cross before convincing deep-pocketed donors to write the kind of checks that would make him competitive with Clinton's campaign bank account.

Trump donors, allies and other Republican operatives continue to express concerns about his campaign operation, which has been dogged by internal battles, a threadbare campaign infrastructure of about 30 paid staffers, and a barely existent fund-raising apparatus.

On Monday, Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who had been overseeing the campaign's fund-raising arm.

The primary Super PAC supporting Trump, Great America PAC, reported raising US$1.4 million in May - accounting for most of the US$2.5 million the group has raised this year. The PAC had US$500,971 cash remaining at the beginning of June.

Clinton's cash advantage has been fuelled in part by the Super PAC supporting her. Priorities USA raised US$12 million in the last month, ending May with a US$52 million in cash. Three unions, AFT Solidarity, Liuna Building America and International Union of Operating Engineers, each gave US$1 million.

The group has largely been tasked with attacking Trump. And so far, they have spent more than US$5.7 million this year on television ads alone attacking the Republican.