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Money Can’t Buy Me Love…or An Election Campaign

S.E. Cupp, Tribune Content Agency on

In June of 2015, Donald Trump announced he was running for president and made several eye-opening promises.

Among them, that he’d be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” (He left the White House in 2020 with the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover.)

Another, that he’d build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it. (Under the Trump administration only 80 miles of new border wall were built and the United States, not Mexico, paid for it.)

And, he’d stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. (Two years after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, Iran resumed enriching uranium and cut in half the time it would need to build a nuke.)

But it was another promise he made that he broke almost immediately, and well before he became president: to self-fund his campaign.

“I don’t need anybody’s money,” he said at the time. “It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors.”

Less than two months later, he held a campaign event that looked very much like a fundraiser — complete with signage asking attendees to “Please have cash ready to make checks payable to: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” And not long after that, he added a contributions page to his website.

He has since then refreshed his pledge to self-fund, telling reporters in 2020 that he might use some of his own money — if necessary. But in reality, he’s been a prolific fundraiser, blowing through more than $1 billion— with a “B” — in 2020. And, despite what he insists, losing.

And now he’s begging top donors for multi-million-dollar donations to keep him afloat.

While Trump is more than happy to spend other people’s hard-earned money to fund his reelection campaign, and his mounting legal bills while he’s at it, others are dumping unholy amounts of their own money to fund long-shot campaigns. And it isn’t going well.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. isn’t spending any of his own fortune on his third party race, but he’s tapped Silicon Valley investor Nicole Shanahan as his vice president, and has pocketed nearly $15 million in total contributions from her. Despite the influx of cash, he’s having trouble even qualifying for the debates, still having not earned at least 15% support in four approved national polls.

Vivek Ramaswamy spent more than $30 million of his own money on a failed candidacy, while North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum spent $14 million before dropping out.

 

In previous elections, billionaire businessmen Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg self-funded their longshot campaigns to the tune of a combined $783.9 million — the size of a smallish country’s economy — on advertising alone.

In down-ballot races, some candidates have hoped their money would do the talking, too. In Maryland, Total Wine & More founder David Trone spent more than $60 million in an effort to succeed Sen. Ben Cardin, and in May he lost to Angela Alsobrooks in the Democratic primary. All that dough didn’t even get him to a general election.

The sad truth is that 30 Senate candidates have loaned their campaigns $1 million or more over the last two election cycles, for a combined sum of $203 million in 2020 and 2022…and all 30 lost. Three more self-funders have run in the 2024 cycle — and lost.

It’s not just the Senate. Over on Long Island, far-left Democrat Nancy Goroff is taking another swing at a congressional seat currently occupied by Republican Nick LaLota. After spending upwards of $2 million of her own money in 2020 only to lose by nearly 10 points to Rep. Lee Zeldin, she’s at it again, spending big bucks to take on moderate Democrat John Avlon in the primary.

It’s hard to make the argument that someone who has no sense of how best to spend their money would be good at balancing the budget of a district, a state, or the country. Having a lot of money, and wasting it recklessly and narcissistically on longshot races and vanity projects doesn’t seem fiscally responsible.

Nor is it in the spirit of public service. Nothing says “I work for you” like backing up your own Brinks truck to try to sway voters in TV ads and mailers.

I’m not naïve. I know we live in a time where candidates will do anything, say anything to win an election. But for the self-funders who think they can simply buy an election, it’s clear voters aren’t buying what they’re selling.

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(S.E. Cupp is the host of "S.E. Cupp Unfiltered" on CNN.)

©2024 S.E. Cupp. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



 

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