Part of Donald Trump’s pitch in 2016 centered on his ability to self-fund his campaign. By using his own bank account, Trump argued, he was avoiding the influence of big money donors. As he tweeted in February of 2016, “I am self funding my campaign & don’t owe anybody anything! I only owe it to the American people!”
Fast-forward three years and a lot has changed. For his 2020 bid, Trump is eagerly taking advantage of the big donors he once scorned. Super-PACs, which he’s called a “scam” and “very unfair,” are now supporting him with hundreds of millions of dollars. And his campaign has collected gobs of cash, bringing in $30 million in the first quarter of 2019.
The shift in how the money has come in is also affecting how it’s going out. In 2016, Trump had a skeleton staff and routinely stiffed vendors, including a group of little girls who sang at his rallies. But that’s when he was spending his own money. Now he’s spending other people’s money, and according to the New York Times, he doesn’t care where it goes.
Mr. Trump has been uninterested in the campaign’s mammoth online advertising efforts, which have surpassed $4.5 million. When it comes to digital advertising in general, his response is to ask aides, “Is this for television?”
Unlike his last presidential race, during which Mr. Trump was concerned about spending because it was his own money on the line, he has not pressed for details.
What does Trump care about? According to the Times, he “insists on having final approval over the songs on his campaign playlist, as well as the campaign merchandise, but he has never asked to see a budget for 2019.” That explains the campaign T-shirts with pictures of Trump’s tweets on them.
It’s not surprising that Trump, who managed to convince millions of people that he could spend Mexico’s money on a border wall, is careless with money that isn’t his. He’s openly eager to spend other people’s money, as he admitted on the campaign trail in 2016. “It’s called OPM. I do that all the time in business,” he said. “It’s called other people’s money. There’s nothing like doing things with other people’s money.”