Trump largely lived up to his self-financing pledge in the primaries, but that may not get him through the general election.
An FKD Feature exclusive

The Donald Trump campaign finance reform plan includes his professed distaste of Citizens United and the Super PAC system it reaffirmed. But things may get pretty awkward for him, since he’ll likely need Super PAC support throughout the general election.

“Really, really, really bad.”

Throughout the primaries, Trump has been vocal in his opposition to Super PACs, which allow corporations and unions to collect an unlimited amount of money to campaign for or against a candidate (though they can’t donate directly to campaigns or coordinate with them). Citizens United was the 2010 Supreme Court decision that made these entities and their political practices legal.

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the media before a rally on May 26, 2016 in Bismarck, North Dakota. According to a delegate count released Thursday, Trump has reached the number of delegates needed to win the GOP presidential nomination.
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Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Saint Anselm College June 13, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Trump commented on the shooting in Orlando and immigration policies.
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Republican candidate for President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally at Atlantic Aviation on June 11, 2016 in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
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Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on June 1, 2016 in Sacramento, California. Donald Trump is campaigning in California ahead of the states June 7th Republican primary.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Tampa Convention Center on June 11, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott spoke at the rally and introduced Trump
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Republican candidate for President Donald Trump arrives in his plane to speak to supporters at a rally at Atlantic Aviation on June 11, 2016 in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump embraces the United States flag during a campaign rally at the Tampa Convention Center on June 11, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott spoke at the rally and introduced Trump.
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Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the Faith and Freedom Forum Coalition's 'Road to Majority' conference on June 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Trump used a teleprompter to deliver his speech to the religious conference.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally on May 26, 2016 in Billings, Montana. According to a delegate count released Thursday, Trump has reached the number of delegates needed to win the GOP presidential nomination.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association's NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during the NRA Convention at the Kentucky Exposition Center on May 20, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. The NRA endorsed Trump at the convention. The convention runs May 22.
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As Trump put it in a speech to Liberty University students: “We have to do something about Super PACs. Because Super PACs are now running the country. Gotta get rid of Super PACs. Really, really, really bad.”

Trump largely self-financed his primary campaign, spending over $45 million of his own money, which accounted for 72 percent of the total funds raised. This put him in a unique position to be critical of other candidates’ reliance on wealthy donors to finance their campaigns. To this end, he spent the primaries insisting that such reliance impacts candidates’ integrity and beholds them to special interests.

Despite Trump’s derision, several Super PACs attempting to raise money for Trump cropped up during the primaries. Trump straight-up disavowed these entities, and even filed a number of complaints with the Federal Elections Commission about them.

The reason was simple: “I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

“For the party”

But now, Trump is going to need a lot more money to wage his campaign against the very well-connected and well-funded Sec. Hillary Clinton. And his tune on big money contributions is changing.

“I mean, do I want to sell a couple of buildings and self-fund?” Trump asked. “I don’t know that I want to do that necessarily, but I really won’t be asking for money for myself, I’ll be asking money for the party.”

As is typical for a presidential nominee, Trump is teaming up with the Republican Party in a joint fundraising effort. The candidate and the party work together to attract donors both for the candidate’s run and the party itself. Based on what he said about asking for money for the party and not himself, it seems Trump may be open to Super PACs contributing so long as he can claim it’s not for him personally, and that he doesn’t need them (he’s really rich), but that it’s good for the party.

"But if pro-Trump Super PAC efforts are to be effective, Trump will probably need to start actively speaking in favor of one of them."

But if pro-Trump Super PAC efforts are to be effective, Trump will probably need to start actively speaking in favor of one of them. There are several currently operating, and if the candidate doesn’t legitimize one of them with his express support, donors aren’t going to know where to put their money. They can contribute at most $5,400 directly to Trump’s campaign, but any money beyond that would need to go to a PAC.

Takeaway

While Trump might begrudgingly support the use of Super PACs to further his campaign in the general election, his position on them is pretty clear: Big money in politics corrupts politicians and he knows because he put a lot of money in candidates’ pockets over the years in exchange for favors.

With that in mind, it’s possible that, if he were president, he may work to have Citizens United overturned.

However, he has not articulated a plan for campaign finance reform. Since not everyone is “really rich” like The Donald, it’s unclear how he’d make it easier for anyone else to run for president without big-money contributions from special interests.

 

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Header image: Getty

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Posted 07.12.2016 - 03:00 pm EST