Let's Fix This Country
the election

Was Trump Just in It for the Money?

Seems preposterous, but he hasn't ruled out quitting

With his hour-and-fifteen minute acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, Donald Trump's promises to fix everything that is wrong in the country — and fast — say that he's in the race to the end. But just so we can say we were aware of the possibility should it happen, we'll take a last look at a frequent conjecture that Trump was — at first, anyway — just in the running for the money and, whether before or after the election, he might just take the money and run.

The questions of serious commitment burbled to the surface whenever he insulted yet another voting bloc with an ethnic slur or angered conservatives with his occasional leftward blasphemies. His string of unforced errors bring to mind "The Producers", the comedy in which Zero Mostel deliberately fails so as to pocket the money.

Just a month ago, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested Trump would quit if offered $5 billion. "I guess we'd have to think about it", Trump quipped(?).

Or might a psychiatrist adduce that a deeper part of him is doing its utmost to see that he self-destructs. So very ill-prepared is he to handle the difficulties and complexities of the Oval Office, that even braggadocian Trump must have secret fears of what lies ahead should he win.

But what if Trump, who entered the race as a complete outsider who knows so little about national affairs or international matters ("Belgium is a beautiful city", he said; he drew a blank when asked about Brexit), believed he wouldn't go far but would profit by trumpeting the Trump brand and propping up his income, which has taken some hits with "Celebrity Apprentice" no longer on the air ($15 million a year, he claims) and NBC axing Trump's partly owned Miss Universe Pageant for his slander of Mexicans, causing an audience plunge from 5.6 million to 1.2 million.

Tony Schwartz, picked by Trump to write a biography that instead became "Art of the Deal" (which Trump now thinks he wrote), spent 18 months tagging along after Donald doing the research and comments in this current New Yorker magazine piece on the candidate's "absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.”

His successes have drawn him ever deeper in the race, but last fall he more than once said that if he began to drop in the polls, which he constantly touted, he might well drop out.

To draw attention to the brand, Trump has staged several campaign events at Mar-a-Lago, his lavish Palm Beach club. At a press conference in March, a stack of Trump products was on display —
Trump press conference at his Mar-a-Lago Club

Trump steaks, Trump wine, Trump water, etc. — products which he doesn't produce but to which he lends his name for a presumed royalty. Heading into the summer and the general election campaign, off he went to Scotland to promote his new golf course and celebrate Brexit; the drop in the pound's value would make it more economical for Americans to make a golfing excursion. "When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry", he said.

But the "marketing genius", as he is often called, has wound up with the wrong demographic. His largely working class supporters can't afford his luxury class offerings, such as dripping-in-gold and chandeliers Mar-a-Lago. Who is he talking to when he promotes "signature wine" and said, "If you want to take one, we’ll charge you about $50 a steak".

Asked whether, once he proves he can beat Hillary Clinton, he might just take a walk? He "flashed a mischievous smile", said The New York Times and said "I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens".

All candidates have their online "stores", selling T-shirts and tchotchkes to make money for their campaigns. Here's Hillary's for example. But Trump's is of a different order. At shop.donaldjtrump.com, there are 18 variants of T and other shirts running to $55 (Can't decide? Just sort by price or popularity). To go with them, 18 different hats reading "Trump" and "Make America Great Again" for up to $30.

He charges even for bumper stickers and buttons; signs for your lawn (set of two for $20); signs, megaphones and banners to be brought to rallies. You can buy a "Team Trump Rally Pack" with a selection of cheerleading gear, even pom-poms, for a mere $335 — enough for a group of six.

Just savvy marketing to defray campaign costs? Maybe, but if you are wondering whether he is in it to win, CNN's Money section took note that Trump spent $208,000 on hats, $5,000 on signs and $694,000 on T-shirts, mugs and stickers in June as reported to the Federal Election Commission, but only $120,000 on ads. Trump probably reckons that those hats will be atop heads for a long time to come, even if he loses — walking advertising worn as a badge by the disgruntled.

CNN said that the Clinton campaign has budgeted $117 million in television advertising prior to Election Day, whereas Trump and supporters have committed to only $700,000.

"I need support from the Republicans", said Trump on "Fox and Friends". "It would be nice to have full support from people that are in office, full verbal support," Trump said. "With all of that being said, I may go a different route if things don't happen."

Trump has made much of his boast that he is financing his campaign from his own wallet and that he is therefore beholden to no special interest groups. It is interesting to note, though, that he has used his own companies to perform campaign services.

Back in March the Daily Beast combed through disclosures to the Federal Election Committee and tallied $2 million that the Trump campaign paid to Trump owned businesses during 2015, most to Tag Air Inc., where he is CEO and which owns the fleet of aircraft that ferries him about the country for campaign appearances. In June he paid more than $1 million to his businesses. In May the campaign paid $432,372 to his Mar-a-Lago Club for rent and catering.

There's nothing illegal about that, but as money comes in across the summer to defeat Hillary, watch for whether Trump quietly bills the Republican Party for all his outlays to date. And that imaginative form of double-dipping, would include reimbursement for all he had paid to companies he owns.

Trump fans wanted a businessman and that may be what they get.

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