Donald Trump’s presidential campaign spent $18.5 million in the month of July, which was more than it had in previous months, but the candidate’s money is still being doled out in unorthodox ways.
Trump still lags far behind Clinton in fundraising, spends a huge amount of cash on campaign swag, shows little evidence of having built a traditional ground game and relies heavily on a digital strategy firm that doesn’t have much background at all in politics.
Here are five ways Trump’s spending is upends politics as usual.
Trump and Brad Parscale shake hands. Parscale is handling Trump’s digital campaign.
Donald Trump’s campaign paid Texas-based web design and marketing company Giles-Parscale $8.4 million in July. The Trump campaign spent nearly half of its money in the month trying to reach small donors with a digital firm that has little background working in politics or really doing the kind of outreach work that is essential to presidential campaigns. But the firm had ties to Trump’s businesses for years, according to a Wired profile on the company’s owner Brad Parscale.
“It has a track record of creating some nice-looking and effective sites.
But his marketing materials skew heavily toward the design-and-build
front and less toward email fundraising,” Campaigns and Elections wrote about the company in July.
Trump’s campaign spent more than six times as much on digital advertising in July than it did in June as it tried to play a quick game of catch up to the Clinton campaign, which as been investing in its digital game since the beginning of its campaign.
Trump has spent more on arena rentals that campaign staff
While Clinton’s campaign spent $3 million in July on a staff of about 700 people, according to the New York Times, the paper reported that Trump had spent about $500,000 on payroll and related expenses for a staff of fewer than 200.
“Trump spent more money on renting arenas for his speeches than he did on payroll,” the New York Times reported.
Before he exited the campaign, Paul Manafort had told the Associated Press that the Trump campaign had grown its ground game and hired managers to run operations throughout the country, but those hires were not made until earlier this month, which means they were not included on the July FEC report. There is very little evidence of a ground game build-up at all in July.
The Washington Post reported that Trump also paid his ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s firm $20,000 in the month of July as he relied on Lewandowski even after he was fired. According to the Associated Press, “that’s about the same amount it had paid him each month while he was running the campaign.”
Mitt Romney was spending nearly double what Trump is at this point.
While Trump’s July spending of $18 million was a big jump from previous months, his campaign is still spending far less than his competitors, according to FEC reports. The Clinton campaign spent $38 million in July. Trump is also lagging behind the Republican nominees that went before him. Slate noted that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had spent $33 million in July of 2012 and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had spent $32 million in July of 2008.
“Make America Great Again” Hats are one of the major investments of the Trump campaign.
From mugs to hats to campaign stickers, the Trump campaign spent $1.8 million in July on campaign memorabilia, an amount that eclipsed even what it was spending on payroll. The focus on merchandise instead of building out a ground game continues to defy the logic of traditional politics.
Trump’s family and businesses have made more than $7 million this campaign.
The Trump campaign has continued to do business with Trump entities, including for services like private air travel. While the campaign spent roughly $2 million, according to the Associated Press, on companies other than Trump’s private air company, Trump spent about $500,000 on TAG Air.
All and all, the Washington Post estimated that Trump and his family have made $7.7 million so far in the campaign by spending on Trump-owned services from event space to air travel.
Campaigns are required to pay market value on items it purchases, and there is nothing per se illegal about using Trump-owned vendors.