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July Was Clinton's Best Month Of Fundraising; Trump Wasn't Far Behind

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had a big fundraising month, which is a big deal both because campaigns need money and because fundraising from thousands and thousands of people can signal that a lot of people actually support a candidate. Until now, Trump had raised, in presidential campaign terms, very little money. Now the campaign says that in July, a flood of small donations reduced his fundraising disadvantage against Hillary Clinton, which we're going to talk about now with Matea Gold, who covers money and politics for The Washington Post. Welcome to the program.

MATEA GOLD: Great to be with you.

INSKEEP: She's in our studios. So how much money are we talking about here?

GOLD: So Trump, together with the RNC, pulled in about $82 million in July, just shy of the $90 million that Hillary and the DNC raised together in the same month. And what's really remarkable about this, Steve, is that up until late May, aside from a couple donate buttons on his website, Trump effectively didn't have a fundraising operation. He sort of started from zero and is very quickly catching up with Hillary Clinton.

INSKEEP: And what kinds of donors have been contributing $82 million in one month?

GOLD: So we don't know exactly the breakdown of his donations for the last month, but we can see from the previous month that he was able to raise a significant amount of money from high-dollar donors who gave a maximum amount to the RNC and the Trump Victory Fund together. But it appears in July that he actually was really buoyed by a huge number of small donors. And this is significant because these are people he can go to over and over again to tap for further contributions.

INSKEEP: This is also reminding me - I mean, any time you have a big success with small donors, it reminds me of Barack Obama in 2008, who had this huge donor network, which signified, like, really broad support in the country.

GOLD: Sure, and that's something that we've expected that once Trump began fundraising in earnest he would be able to do. He clearly has an enormous base of very motivated supporters that once he began appealing to them for donations, they would respond. And this is the first sign that they really are doing so.

I do think what's important to note, though, even though he is playing catch-up right now with Hillary Clinton, it's very hard to make up the lost ground of the last several months. She's already spent tens of millions of dollars building an infrastructure on the ground in the states. And that's something he and the RNC are still scrambling to do.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm just thinking that through. So it's August already, so September, October, like three months away from the election here, give or take a few days. Does he have time to spend $82 million effectively then?

GOLD: Well, it remains to be seen. And he actually has not been spending enormous sums of money. He's been pretty careful about where his money's gone. And Clinton's actually put tens of millions of dollars into television ads, and that's something that Trump has said he doesn't believe he needs to do. That is a pretty remarkable strategy for a presidential candidate.

But he believes, looking at where he had been so far in the race, that he's getting such an enormous amount of free airtime, he doesn't need to put paid ads on the air to compete with her. But he definitely faces pressure right now to get the money out the door, to hire the operatives and the organizers on the ground who can identify voters and get them to the polls in November.

INSKEEP: Let's just remember that that's another way that Obama, among other candidates, has spent millions and millions and millions of dollars over the years is by very specifically identifying very specific people and get them out. Trump doesn't really believe he needs to do that either?

GOLD: Well, he has effectively outsourced that job to the RNC, and the RNC has been waiting on him to bring in a lot of this money so it can get those organizers out the door. You know, they maintain that they're on track. But people on the ground in the states say that they don't have enough resources, and that's something they're really working to try to play catch-up on.

INSKEEP: A couple of other things here. I have to ask, this is what the campaigns say they did in July, the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign, but they haven't formally reported it yet. Is there any reason to doubt the numbers they're giving?

GOLD: Well, I think that we will probably see pretty close to these numbers reported to the FEC on August 20 when they have to file...

INSKEEP: The Federal Election Commission, right, right.

GOLD: Exactly. I mean, that - it would be pretty hard to make a claim this large and then have to retract it. And something - you know, Trump did put out a number for June, and it ended up being exactly pretty much on target with what he reported. So I think we're going to see him reporting this large of a sum.

INSKEEP: One other thing. You said Hillary Clinton raised even more money, $90 million in July, and we have news from Reuters that the Republican billionaire Seth Klarman, who's largely supported Republicans in the past, now says he's with Hillary Clinton. How big a deal is that?

GOLD: It's another sign that a lot of people in the money class and the GOP are aligning with her. We saw Meg Whitman, the former Republican candidate for governor of California and wealthy in her own right, say this herself. And so it's something that I think we'll be watching for because it does signal the kinds of resources that Clinton will be able to tap into going forward.

INSKEEP: Matea Gold, thanks for coming by this morning, really appreciate it.

GOLD: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: She covers national political issues, as well as money and politics, for The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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