Trump's woeful $1.3m campaign war chest dwarfed by Clinton's $42.5m

Filings to Federal Election Commission show Democrat’s campaign holding far more money than Republican’s, raising questions about his fundraising efforts

Donald Trump’s campaign budget was widely mocked on Tuesday as figures showed him paying his own companies and children while raising far less money than his rival for the US presidency, Hillary Clinton.

The businessman lavished nearly $1m on hats, pens, T-shirts, mugs and stickers last month but has not run a TV advert since he effectively secured the Republican nomination on 4 May. His minimal social media effort is led by his own bombastic tweeting.

Trump spent $6.7m in May, filings released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show. He spent more than $423,000 on facility rental and catering at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, and another $350,000 on travel air on Tag Air, the holding company that owns Trump’s jet.

In total, roughly one-fifth of Trump’s expenditures in May went to his own companies or in reimbursements to Trump’s children. His son Eric’s wine company received nearly $4,000.

And buried in the financial report was $35,000 in payments to a mysterious entity called “Draper Sterling” for “web advertising”, a reference that raised questions and caused mirth on social media because of its similarity to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the fictional advertising agency in the TV drama Mad Men.

Trump’s campaign war chest is dwarfed by that of rival Hillary Clinton, representing one of the biggest financial mismatches in presidential election history.

While the Republican presumptive nominee entered June with just $1.3m in the bank, Clinton had $42.5m, according to filings released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) – making her campaign cash reserve 32 times larger than that of Trump. Whereas he had about 70 staff in total, she had 683.

The figures are likely to feed a growing feeling of panic among Republicans about Trump’s chances in November. The presumptive Republican nominee is trailing Clinton in opinion polls and, after weeks of controversy over racially charged remarks, fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Monday.

Despite winning the Republican primary contest on 4 May, Trump evidently did not enjoy an immediate boost in fundraising. Donors gave just over $3m that month. Clinton, by contrast, brought in more than $26m in May.

Trump loaned his effort another $2.2m, bringing his total outlay over the past year to about $46m – almost all of which is loans. During speeches, the self-proclaimed billionaire has claimed that low spending should be seen as a strength, not a weakness, and noted that Jeb Bush’s millions did not lead to political success.

However, his meagre total of $1.3m in campaign cash at the end of May was less even than defeated Republican opponents Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. It was also well short of the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who in May 2012 raised $23.4m and had more than $17m in the bank.

On Tuesday, the Trump campaign pushed back against the barrage of criticism, saying it held its first campaign fundraising event on 25 May. It claimed the campaign’s fundraising has been “incredible” and has seen a “tremendous outpouring” of support for Trump and money to the Republican party.

Trump said: “If need be, there could be unlimited ‘cash on hand’ as I would put up my own money, as I have already done through the primaries, spending over $50m. Our campaign is leaner and more efficient, like our government should be.”

Most pro-Trump Super Pacs were not due to file financial reports on Monday, having either just formed recently or being subject to a different schedule. Great America Pac took in $1.4m in May, the most it has raised so far. Its donors include Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota-based broadcasting executive, who gave $25,000.

Clinton entered June with a war chest of more than $42m, up from $30m a month earlier and her highest in any other FEC report to date. This reflects how Clinton was able to ease up on advertising spending as the threat from primary opponent Bernie Sanders receded.

She spent about $14m in May – down from almost $24m in April and $31.6m in February, when the senator from Vermont posed a significant challenge.

Clinton raised more than $26m in May. Her campaign said this came from more than 650,000 contributions from about 430,000 people. The average donation was about $44.

“We’re starting the general election in strong financial shape thanks to the support of more than 1.3 million people and strategic investments that helped us conserve our resources,” said Robby Mook, campaign manager for Clinton.

“That grassroots support will be critical to our success and will ensure that we have the resources we need to communicate Hillary Clinton’s message that we are stronger together.”

Clinton’s campaign has reserved nearly $21m in television ads in the coming weeks in major swing states. In contrast Trump’s campaign has yet to make a single general election ad buy.

In addition, Priorities USA, the main Super Pac helping Clinton’s presidential election effort, raised $12m in May. Its key contributors include the Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner, who gave $3m; and the New York financiers Donald Sussman, who gave $2m, and Bernard Schwartz, who gave $1m.

Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin at Hillary Clinton fundraising concert

The robust health of the Clinton finances could add to Republican anxieties. The party began June with about $20m in the bank – only a third as much cash as it had four years earlier when Romney was the presumptive nominee.

FEC reports reflecting the first few weeks after Trump became the party’s flag-bearer show the Republican National Committee (RNC) raised $13m in May – little different from what it raised in April when there was still uncertainty over the nominee.

By comparison, four years earlier, Romney helped the RNC bring in $34m and begin June 2012 with more than $60m in available cash.

The figures put another question mark over Trump’s embattled campaign. His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, asserted recently: “There are no fundraising concerns whatsoever. The money is pouring in and Mr Trump has received tremendous support.”

Outside the presidential race, Eychaner gave $2m and Hollywood tycoon Haim Saban gave $1m to Democratic Super Pacs active in the House and Senate races, the Associated Press reported.

On the Republican side the Freedom Partners Action Fund, a political group led by the conservative billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, collected $8m, mostly in large donations. Charles Koch gave $3m.

Sanders raised $16.4m and spent $12.9m in May. He started June with $9.2m in cash, which was better than he did in April, when he ended the month with only $5.7m.


David Smith and Ben Jacobs in Washington

The GuardianTramp

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