The Americans Trump Betrayed by Courting Big-Money Donors

The billionaire won many of his supporters by promising to self-fund. Now he has hired a former hedge-fund manager with ties to George Soros and Goldman Sachs to fundraise for him.

Jim Urquhart / Reuters

Last autumn, Scott McLellan, a retiree in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, saw a Facebook post by Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency, who declared, “By self-funding my campaign, I am not controlled by my donors, special interests or lobbyists. I am only working for the people of the U.S.!”

More than 300,000 people “liked” the post.

Trump’s pledge certainly stirred something in McClellan, who responded with a comment. Other politicians solicit money from special interests and lobbyists and are then controlled by them, he wrote, putting the country in “dire straits.” Whereas Trump would only take small contributions from regular Americans. “I sent $25 even though I am retired and on a fixed income with a strict budget,” he explained. “I am gladly and proudly sending him $25 each month until he is POTUS!!”

This week, Trump betrayed McClellan.

The candidate “took steps to appropriate much of the Republican National Committee’s financial and political infrastructure for his presidential campaign,” the New York Times reports. Having spent around $40 million on the primaries, Trump, who claims to be worth as much as $10 billion, insists that “he may need as much as $1.5 billion for the fall campaign, but that he will seek to raise it from donors.”

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That same autumn day, Jim Haskins, another Facebook commenter, lauded Trump’s independence. “Every other candidate will have to take big donors money, then they will be bought and paid for. Right now Hillary is owned by Soros, and Sanders is owned by the Unions,” he wrote. “That is why I'll only vote for Trump.”

Just two months ago, The Facebook group USA Patriots for Donald Trump posted this:

Said Kathy Dixon, a commenter on that post, “Soros has met a leader, Donald Trump, the leader for we the people, whom he will never own. Trump is not for sale.” Missouri resident Linda Isgrig wrote, “He is the evil of this whole world. What he does should be totally illegal.” Linda Hall-Cassel, another Soros critic, wrote, “We need to spread the word every chance we get, and make sure to include those associated with him.”

Last week, after Ted Cruz dropped out of the race for the GOP nomination––Trump once said of Cruz, “Goldman Sachs owns him. Remember that, folks: They own him."––Trump put Steven Mnuchin in charge of soliciting campaign funds from big-money donors. Who is he? “In 2003, the new finance director started a hedge fund with $1 billion from George Soros, the liberal New York financier who has spent more than $13 million to support Hillary Clinton and other Democrats,” Bloomberg Politics reports. Before that, Mnuchin “spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., working his way up to partner and becoming head of the mortgage department before joining Hank Paulson in the executive suite.”

Prior to hiring the former hedge-fund manager, Trump told an interviewer on CBS, “The hedge-fund guys didn't build this country.These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky. They are energetic. They are very smart. But a lot of them—they are paper-pushers. They make a fortune. They pay no tax. It's ridiculous."

Trump appears to have conned his supporters. Is he remorseful? On Tuesday, I asked this of Trump’s campaign:

I was thinking in particular of Jason Sams, because I’d just read a question that the retired Army vet asked Trump on Facebook: “Where can we the American people send donations? I am 100% disabled determined by the VA with service connected disabilities. However with my limited income every dollar adds up and you will stay true to your core if the donations come from the American people and not corporations.”

For those who gave trust instead of money, restitution is more difficult. And many were trusting.

“Trump is the only one not controlled by others,” Vernon Wayne of Essie, Kentucky wrote.

“The least one can do is THANK YOU, for your sacrifice and generosity,” retired realtor Ernestine Hronas commented.

“I am not controlled by anyone either,” Tim Hunter wrote, “and I volunteer my time to help with your campaign in any way you see fit!”

“To paraphrase Pinnochio,” said Lawrence Phelps, a former program analyst at the Treasury Department, “there are no strings on you.”

Ruby Brown was enthusiastic:

That's what I want to lead our nation; someone who is willing to finance his own campaign! If they were required to pay their own way into office, the lobbyist couldn't demand anything and we the people would truly have voice in our government. As it is, we have no voice, and the King of the hill along with our senators and representatives are trampling on our constitution!

It's a sad day in America!!! Go Trump!

Paul Alvarez was impressed:

By self funding, you have won my respect because I too am a believer in paying my own way in life and I have taught my children to do the same. Yes, this approach requires working to pay your way, instead of rallying for people to hound one another for campaign donations. Your approach is what "paying your fair share" truly looks like. Many could stand to learn from this.

Bob Turner of Nashville was won over:

Self-funding creates a HUGE trust factor !! Donor control is one of your strongest arguments against the dishonest type of politics most of us detest.

You must know that.

William S. Weber of Pennsville, New Jersey, felt that Trump was doing something historic:

I am 73 years old and I never thought I would ever see the day a good man with enought money to run for president. I hope the people out their understand what this means. He will not owe anyone anything. He will not be influence by anyone. He can make decisions on what’s right or wrong. This has not happened in the last 120 years.Think about what this means for our country.

These are a tiny fraction of the people Caleb Howe of Red State was talking about when observing, “Trump’s voters heard what he told them over and over and over and over and over... They heard and believed and repeated ad nauseum that his self-funding was his biggest asset because it put him outside the system. It made him his own man. What’s more, those who were taking money from outside sources were considered to be owned by those sources. Trump explicitly stated time and again that his opponents were beholden to those who funded them. They were owned and he wasn’t. The reason he wasn’t owned was that he wasn’t taking the money.”

Hence the magnitude of this week’s betrayal. As Howe put it:

That’s a huge principle.

A minor detail like “I never said the general election” is just Clintonesque, “what the definition of is is” parsing. It’s hogwash. He established relentlessly and without pause that self-funding makes you independent and pure, and that not self-funding makes you impure, owned, and a puppet of outside interest. Now he is saying he’s going to take that money.

He’s agreeing to become owned. And it’s worse than just a vague notion of fundraising. He put together a sophisticated operation to get big, big money from big, big donors.

Last September, after Trump pledged to self-fund, Tanner Buckmaster responded on Facebook by declaring, “I am defending you to everyone I know. I sure hope you are real because I am putting my child's future in your hands.” Now Buckmaster and every other Trump supporter can see that the pledge to self-fund was a blatant lie. I wonder how many will keep supporting Trump and how many will reconsider. It’s no easy thing to face the fact that you’ve been duped by a conman. The smartest marks wise up. The ones in deepest denial get taken for all they’re worth.