I don’t need anybody’s money.…I don’t care. I’m really rich.
Mr. Trump, as a Republican candidate for president and a billionaire who is nearly single-handedly financing himself, is running a hybrid operation that doesn’t have to follow many of the rules imposed on his rivals.
He can raise and spend unlimited sums of his own money on his campaign, and while other candidates can’t coordinate their activity with the better-funded super PACs backing them, Mr. Trump as a self-funded candidate is in control of all of his money, a big chunk of which is being redirected into his own bank accounts.
‘I don’t need anybody’s money.…I don’t care. I’m really rich.’ —Donald Trump on his campaign financing
Federal regulators released details of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s wealth. The disclosure shows Trump has assets worth at least $1.5 billion.
Mr. Trump drew income of more than $5.1 million from Trump Corp. in 2014 and most of the first half of 2015, his personal financial disclosure on Wednesday showed.
Beyond how he is paying for administrative expenses, “there’s the obvious advantage in being very involved and close to the messaging of the campaign and the strategic planning of the campaign,” said Kenneth Gross, former head of enforcement at the Federal Election Commission.
Of the $1.9 million the campaign raised in the second quarter, $1.8 million, or 94%, came from Mr. Trump’s own pocket. Mr. Trump’s second-quarter campaign account fell short of what other GOP front runners, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, raised for their candidacies. Mr. Bush collected $11.4 million, while Mr. Rubio garnered $12 million.
But should Mr. Trump, who is currently topping the field in polling of GOP primary voters, continue to pour millions into his campaign, he will be uniquely equipped to purchase campaign advertisements at lower cost, since candidates pay a reduced rate compared with outside groups, such as super PACs.
TV stations are required to give candidates the “lowest unit rate” in the 45 days before a primary election, and before that must still charge a reasonable rate. While other candidates are also entitled to the lowest rate, the majority of the funds backing their campaigns will likely land in the outside groups backing them.
Outside groups face prices driven by the market, and the supply-and-demand dynamics in such a crowded primary are certain to send advertising rates skyrocketing. Mr. Bush’s allies estimated earlier this week that it would cost nearly $60 million just to run 10 days’ worth of advertising in the first 30 primary states. The former Florida governor’s super PAC has already raised $103 million-nearly 10 times as much as Mr. Bush’s campaign took in.
An unlimited access to funds could also allow Mr. Trump to stay in the race far longer than other candidates, who may face fundraising constraints. Under federal law, individual donations to a candidate are capped at $2,700. Since Trump isn’t relying on anyone else for money, that restriction is essentially meaningless. Mr. Trump did accept $100,000 in contributions in the second quarter, but doesn’t appear to be actively soliciting outside cash.
“I don’t need anybody’s money.…I don’t care. I’m really rich,” Mr. Trump said when he announced his candidacy. He has $300 million in cash and liquid assets, his campaign confirmed.
Corey Lewandowski, his campaign manager, said, “If he wanted, which he doesn’t, he could have billions of dollars of cheap financing against his unlevered assets from banks overnight.”
Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday, Mr. Trump criticized the rest of the presidential field as “controlled by the lobbyists and the special interests and their donors.”
Mr. Trump also avoids the risk that his main backers will quit on him if he doesn’t perform well in the early primaries. His rivals can’t say as much. “He can remain viable as a Republican or even perhaps an independent candidate…for the duration,” Mr. Gross said, adding that a self-funded candidate doesn’t have to pander to the wishes of big donors. “If a candidate is self-financing, you get what you hear, whether you like it or not,” he said. “At least you know they’re not speaking on behalf of somebody else.”
Still, there are perils to paying your own way. “Money helps get attention and be in the race,” said Jan Baran, a campaign-finance lawyer at Wiley Rein. “Whether the candidate is able to stay in a race depends on the voters.”
Self-financing a presidential campaign also hasn’t proven a particularly effective tactic in past elections. In 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot campaigned as an independent, pouring more than $60 million of his own dollars into the effort. He ultimately won less than 20% of the popular vote.
Republican Mitt Romney lent $44 million to his 2008 campaign for his party’s nomination, which he lost to Arizona Sen. John McCain. He didn’t loan any personal funds to his next campaign in 2012, when he clinched the nomination but lost the general election.