US Elections 2016

Donald Trump joins general fray with small war chest

War chest of $1.7m is a fraction of Clinton's $55m; he has a staff of 70, she has 700

Trump memorabilia for sale at a rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on June 11. A shortfall in funds leaves Mr Trump extraordinarily dependent on the Republican National Committee.
Trump memorabilia for sale at a rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on June 11. A shortfall in funds leaves Mr Trump extraordinarily dependent on the Republican National Committee.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump enters the US general election campaign labouring under the worst financial and organisational disadvantage of any major party nominee in recent history, placing both his candidacy and his party in peril.

He began this month with just US$1.3 million (S$1.7 million) in cash on hand, a figure more typical of a US lawmaker's campaign for a House of Representatives seat than a candidate for the White House, and he trails Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton by more than US$41 million, according to reports filed on Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

He has a staff of around 70 people - compared with nearly 700 for Mrs Clinton - suggesting only the barest effort towards preparing to contest swing states this autumn. And he fired his campaign manager, Mr Corey Lewandowski, on Monday, after concerns about his ability to run a competitive race.

The Trump campaign has not aired a television advertisement since he effectively secured the nomination in May and has not booked any future advertising. Mrs Clinton and allies spent nearly US$26 million on ads in June alone.

Mr Trump's fund-raising for May reflects his lag in assembling the core of a national finance team. In the same month that he clinched the Republican nomination, Mr Trump raised just US$3.1 million and was forced to lend himself US$2 million to meet costs. Some invitations to Trump fund-raising events have featured the same short list of national Republican finance volunteers regardless of where the events are held, suggesting that Mr Trump has had trouble lining up local co-hosts.

During an interview on CNN, Mr Lewandowski defended the candidate's bare-bones approach: "If this was the business world, people would be commending Mr Trump for the way he's run this campaign."

  • Trump's troubles


    The Trump campaign is facing one of its most challenging moments, with most polls showing the Republican trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton in battleground states. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed Mrs Clinton with 47 per cent support, compared to Mr Trump's 40 per cent, among registered voters nationally, according to US political news website The Hill.


    The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has a mere US$1.3 million (S$1.7 million), according to reports filed on Monday night with the Federal Election Commission.

    It is an unprecedented low in recent history for a major presidential campaign. Mrs Clinton's campaign - backed by big donors - had more than US$42 million in the bank as of May 31, its report showed.


    Trump donors, allies and other Republican operatives have expressed concerns about his campaign operation, which has been dogged by internal battles, threadbare infrastructure of about 30 paid staff and a barely existent fund-raising apparatus. On Monday, Mr Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who had been tasked with overseeing the fund-raising arm. 


But the shortfall is leaving Mr Trump extraordinarily dependent on the Republican National Committee, which has seen record fund- raising this campaign cycle and, long before Mr Trump even declared his upstart candidacy, had begun investing heavily in a long- range plan to bolster the party's technical and organisational capacity. However, in a first for a major- party nominee, Mr Trump has suggested he will leave the crucial task of field organising in swing states to the Republican National Committee. That decision threatens to leave the party with significant shortfalls of money and manpower.

It is a stark reversal from the 2012 presidential campaign, which seemed to inaugurate a new era of virtually unlimited money in US politics.

By the same point that year, President Barack Obama and Reublican rival Mitt Romney were raising tens of millions of dollars per month with their parties.

Trump allies say the tide is already turning, hoping to raise up to US$500 million in joint efforts with the Republican National Committee from June through October.

But fund-raising efforts for Mr Trump have been hampered by the candidate's own erratic comments. He has repeatedly said he will pay for his own campaign even as his volunteers fan out around the country to solicit six-figure cheques, confusing allies and potential donors alike.

In the meantime, a campaign to stop Mr Trump from becoming the Republican presidential nominee has the support of nearly 400 delegates to the GOP's convention next month, according to organisers, quickly transforming what began as an idea tossed around on social media into a force that could derail a national campaign.

"Short term, yes, there's going to be chaos," said Ms Kendal Unruh, a co-founder of the group, Free the Delegates. "Long term, this saves the party and we win the election. Everything has to go through birthing pains to birth something great."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Trump campaign runs low on cash'. Print Edition | Subscribe