Donald Trump’s alleged ‘presidential election campaign’ is not behaving like one. That should raise a lot of concern. But his behavior is consistent with something else: something Trump has a lot of experience with. His alleged presidential campaign is behaving in ways of a money scam. He may be running up the credit card on his alleged presidential campaign, just to declare bankruptcy in coming weeks or months and in typically Trumpian ways, also managing to make out like a bandit out of the whole venture. Trump may end up making a ton of money out of his inevitably failing ‘presidential campaign’ run.
This is a long blog (I’ve been drafting it for two weeks, it is FAR shorter now than what all I wrote). It runs about 16,000 words - about a chapter-and-a-half in one of my hardcover bestselling tech books. It will probably take you two hours to read. Get plenty of coffee before you start. But also, as its a long article, let me do an executive summary of it.
There are 6 things every Presidential candidate of a major party has to do in US elections after they clinch their nomination and before the Convention. They are: 1) unify the party; 2) ramp up find-raising; 3) prioritize time to the battleground states; 4) pivot from a primary race message to a more moderate general election message; 5) hire tons of staff; and 6) build (or expand) the data-mining operation. Trump has done none of these things or done them at truly miniscule levels. He has in many ways done the opposite of what needs to be done. But alarmingly, if Trump were to want to run a money scam, THEN his behavior on all of those six points is consistent with that goal.
Trump’s behavior is very suspicious. He seems to be self-destructing his own campaign but whatever he does, is consistent with pandering to the right-wing extremes, the racists and nutters. Trump is appearing in bizarre places, not consistent with a real campaign but yes, consistent with a money-grabbing scam. He of course is refusing to show his tax returns. And worse of all, his campaign has claimed to have forgiven Trump’s loans, converted them into campaign contributions but no such paperwork exists. If Trump keeps the loans alive, he can have fund-raising money repay his loans.
Trump’s own past is littered with examples of financial lies, fraud, exaggeration, and scams. That should set of tons of alarm bells. Also Trump’s campaign finance boss is someone who had suspicious experience with bankruptcies benefitting from them and using them and playing others for suckers.
When and how could it end. I speculate on a lot of possibilities but my working theory is that from a monetary point of view, Trump won’t quit before he is paid back what he Trump is personally owed by the Campaign (anything from 50 to 65 million dollars). He may now be stockpiling cash to prepare for that very move. Previously I wrote that he might be running a scam to try to get out just before the debates. Now I think the signs point to an earlier exit. And then there is a genuine chance that literally Hollywood stunts are involved ie a fake assassination attempt or fake heart attack or fake kidnapping or whatever (a person high in Trump’s organization was recently a Hollywood producer). But read the article to get more of all that.
The key point is, there are six things every campaign HAS to do right now (Hillary’s campaign is doing all those things of course). Every other campaign always has done these. Trump has not done them or has only very very minimally started to do some of it. But what Trump has done, often goes AGAINST those things he should be doing. But all of Trump’s behavior IS consistent with a scam. That is what I think he’s running. So if you’d like to read all the reasoning and evidence I have, follow me:
WHAT EVERY CANDIDATE DOES AT THIS POINT
Trump became the Republican party’s presumptive nominee exactly two months ago. That was when rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich both quit the race while still some states had primary elections to come. They knew they were mathematically eliminated from the race. Trump had won the Republican party’s nomination contest.
What happened in the past two months is bizarre, if we consider this a supposed campaign for President. Once a candidate clinches their nomination in the US system with two major parties, the candidate and the campaign has to do a number of things. These must be done or the candidate cannot win.
- Candidate has to unify the party. A fractured party cannot win the election. A unified party is not a guarantee you win but its a prerequisite for winning. You cannot win unless you unify your party.
- Candidate has to ramp up the fund-raising to truly massive scale. A US Presidential election costs about 1 Billion dollars per side. You cannot win without the money. And its an arms race, there is never ‘enough’, you try to get as much as possible because everything costs and the other side is ramping up against you. The fund-raising needs to ramp up to more than 100 million dollars per month to well past 200 million by the last months.
- Candidate has to prioritize time so that all public speaking time is in ‘battleground states’ the approximately 12 states that decide the election. For Trump to campaign in Texas or West Virginia would be a total waste because those states will vote for a Republican anyway. Similarly its hopeless to go campaign in California or Maine as those states will vote Democratic. Its the battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Florida etc that will decide the election. As the Candidate’s time is the only resource that cannot be replicated or increased, its the most vital decision of the daily running of the Campaign. Where is it worth the Campaign’s while, to send the Candidate. Most requests and suggestions will be turned down.
- Candidate has to pivot the focus of the campaign from winning the support of party loyalists in the primary race, to being able to win in the general election. One third of the nation is ‘undecided’ or ‘independent’ voters, so this pivot inevitably means moving from positions of strongly partisan support to those that appeal to the middle. In other words the Candidate has to shift positions to be more appealing to middle voters, in particular those very partisan positions that might repel independent voters.
- Candidate has to hire rapidly more staff. A full national campaign has about 1,000 paid staff with thousands, even tens of thousands of volunteers on top of that. The paid staff has to be hired. A primary campaign is a tiny fraction of that in size. In terms of hiring speed, a campaign needs to hire about 5 new people every single day.
- Candidate has to deploy a datamining operation to study the electorate, identify supporters, tailor messages, target campaign appearances; and most vitally, on election day, drive the Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) activities. This was a 100 million dollar enterprise for Obama in 2012 with 120 paid data professionals in staff. The voter files were the deepest customer insight ever collected by any industry; the computer database across distributed computer platforms was one of the ten largest computer databases on the planet for any use including space exploration, spy code breaking, weather forecasting etc.
This is what the Candidate HAS to do. Every political expert knows this. Even Trump is reluctantly admitting to those activities even after he mocked many of them early in his run (similar to how he mocked the Teleprompter until his speeches became ‘serious’). There is no disagreement to the above. None. There is no magical ‘disruption’ campaign by going on TV every day or ranting on Twitter that can overcome the above. The other ways MAY help the Candidate but the above things have to be done. They have to be done.
HOW TO DO IT
To achieve part of the above, the Candidate has two very powerful tools that are at his disposal now that he or she has become the ‘presumptive nominee’. The choice of Vice President and the speaking slots at the Convention. There is also the party’s official platform but this has become a nearly meaningless artifact that serves only some symbolic uses so putting things into the party’s platform does not have much value anymore.
So how do they interlink? A given donor supported a rival in the primary race. That donor wants that rival candidate to have a good speaking slot. As part of the negotiations to shift the fund-raising support to the Candidate, that donor will request that the rival candidate is given a plumb speaking job on the Convention to promote issues that are relevant to that donor. This kind of wheeling-and-dealing that happens behind the scenes. This is all legal and normal, the Supreme Court has said that money equals free speech, and nothing wrong with talking to rich people who fund your campaign. There are limits to how much money can be given directly to a campaign but the rich donors can then give millions more to SuperPACs of their choice, that are in support of the campaign.
So take a fractured party. Offer your rival a Vice Presidential slot and the party is a lot happier. Or if not, then give them a nice prime time speaking slot to get them to join you and endorse you and campaign with you.
TRUMP IS DOING IT ALL WRONG
Did Trump unify his party? No. He has feuded with his party and made the fissures worse. Instead of fixing things, Trump is making them worse. Literally. Trump was continuing older feuds with Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Mitt Romney. He played power negotiation games with Paul Ryan. He started a new open war with New Mexico Republican Governor Susana Martinez. And Trump continued various hostilities with many conservative pundits and media such as ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough. When he could have used honey to ask for support by those not yet onboard, promising Convention speaker slots, Trump instead tossed out a bunch of bizarre names to speak at the Convention that have nothing to do with the party but somehow Trump thinks they could help. Like Mike Tyson the past world champion boxer better known for biting the ear off one of his opponents. Who is a notoriously poor speaker. But best of all, considering how bady Trump is doing with women voters, Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist.
Now the Trump campaign did later withdraw that suggestion but they also said they’d invite Bobby Knight the former basketball coach. Bobby once said about rape that if a woman is going to get raped, she should relax and enjoy it. Is this how Trump intends to win over women voters? Then there is former Football Coach Mike Ditka. Ditka said he was never even contacted about speaking (which to me says, this is a Mickey-Mouse operation run with no plan or managent). Once he was formally asked, he said no he won’t speak at Trump’s Convention. But this is all the nonsense Trump is doing, instead of trying to get reluctant Republicans to come side with him and support him and the party.
This will be the first Convention where one party has no live past President speaking. Against it, the other side has two of the best Presidents in giving speeches at Conventions, ever, both endorsing their Candidate. One is the sitting President. Both have positive ratings in the general electorate. Trump should be working extra hard to find high-power Republican speakers to counter that pairing. Instead past GOP nominee for President, Mitt Romney said no. Past nominee John McCain said he won’t be attending the Convention. But of those who HAVE endorsed Trump who would hope for speaker slots, are some of the most ridiculed or most reviled past top-tier Republicans like former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Former Vice President Dan Quayle. Any sane conservative Convention organizer who wanted to use the Convention as an opportunity to make the Republican party a little less hated, would immediately reject all of those three.
Similarly the VP selection. Trump has not even floated the idea that he might be considering Ted Cruz or John Kasich to try to unify the party. Most sensible choices that could help and be a good VP choice to make Trump a more appealing candidate and help him govern and help win some votes, like say Senator Marco Rubio or former Secretary of State Condi Rice or Governor Nicki Haley - have already said no thanks. Trump is now stuck with three main choices - former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Governor Chris Christie and Senator Jeff Sessions. Newt is hated by even many in his own party and would be poison of roughly Sarah Palinesque levels in the general election. Chris Christie’s chances of ever winning another election were stalled on a traffic jam he created for the busiest bridge in the world. His approval ratings are in the toilet even in his home state. And Sessions? Well, he’s a nice Southern racist if thats really what you want on your ticket.
If Trump had reached out to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and John Kasich and Jeb Bush, and suggested a possible VP slot or else a cabinet post for them, and then campaigned with them, he could have a far more unified party by now. Instead almost every major Republican who has not endorsed Trump, will not even show up at the Convention at all including former Republican Presidents George HW Bush (Bush the Elder) and George W Bush (Bush the Lesser). Some have gone as far as to say, they will not vote for Trump at all (like 2012 Republican Presidential nominee former Governor Mitt Romney). Many who said they would vote for Trump, said they won’t attend the Convention (like 2008 Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain). At least one sitting Republican Senator, Kirk of Illinois has already run campaign ads AGAINST Trump (I believe this has never happened before, at least not on this level; and I mean obviously once Trump had become the Republican party presumptive nominee). Several prominent Republicans have already said they would be voting for Hillary Clinton the Democrat instead of their party’s nominee Trump, but those have so far only been people of the past not currently holding elected office. The level of antipathy to their party’s nominee is unprecedented since Barry Goldwater.
FUND-RAISING FIASCO AND SCHEDULING DISASTER
Then we have the fund-raising. Its a mess. I will discuss it further below but just a quick snap-shot for now. May was the first month when both campaigns got into the general-election mode. Its the latest month for which both sides have submitted full detail up to now (July 20 will see the reports for June due in). In May, Trump was able to attract 3.1 million dollars direct from donors directly to his campaign and 1 million to his SuperPAC (this excludes the 2 million Trump gave as another loan to his campaign). Hillary was able in the same period attract 24 million dollars to her campaign and another 12 million to her SuperPAC.
The key telling item is how Trump himself treats fund-raising. He has told his staff not to schedule fund-raising events unless he gets a public speaking mass audience event on the same trip. This means he tries to raise funds often in states which are not good for fund-raising or else he wastes a good speaking opportunity in a state that is not going to be competitive like in California and New York that will vote reliably Democrat or Texas that will vote reliably Republican. Worst of all, when the Republican party gave Trump 20 names of rich donors to call personally, he only managed to call 3 of them, then quit calling. Its an absolutely vital part of running for President and Trump is comprehensively failing at it. But note how. Trump is failing because he is not trying. He is not even doing it properly.
This is part of how the time of the candidate is wasted. He also does bizarre, indeed stupid campaign stops. He spent several weeks campaigning in California. Every major analyst agrees that a Republican in general, but Trump in particular is not going to win in California. The state has voted reliably Democratic for 3 decades. But for Trump, this is one of the states with the highest Hispanic voter demographics who utterly hate Trump. And their heritage is mostly from Mexico (where Floridan Hispanics often comes from Cuba or Puerto Rico) so Trump’s anti-Mexico rhetoric is doubly damaging in California. If it was a sane and sincere attempt by a candidate convinced he knew some magical solution to California, he could have scheduled a couple of campaign stops there and tested the waters. Not Trump. He camped in California for three weeks, racking up huge expenditures and achieving nothing. The polls did not move in his favor. (Now when Trump met with the Congressional Republican delegation yesterday, he showed his map of 17 states and California was no longer on it, so even Trump has now admitted, at least in private, that he can’t possibly win in California but note - that means those three weeks were utterly wasted. Trump personally squandered 12% of the most precious asset any campaign has (the Candidate’s own time), on this one idiotic political move all Republicans were telling him was stupid.)
You can forgive a campaign some mistakes (see Bill Clinton airport meeting) but not a pattern. What about Scotland? There are no votes in Scotland. What was that about? Two days wasted (1.5% of the total remaining time available). Yes, some candidates who are weak on their foreign policy credentials like to schedule an international trip to a friendly foreign country to meet up with their leaders and to stage some press events to ‘seem presidential’ as a publicity stunt, but Trump didn’t meet ANY local politicians at all. He did not meet with (then) Prime Minister David Cameron. He did not even meet with opposition leaders that held views highly positive of Trump like former Mayor of London and Brexit proponent Boris Johnson. Trump took time off the toughest political race on the planet - while he lags far behind - to go open a golf course. No political sense whatsoever. (And it turned out to be a foreign policy fiasco too, with his Brexit comments). And now, just two days ago he was in coal country. West Virginia, a state that will vote reliably red, Republican. Hillary isn’t even trying to fight for WV, yet Trump was there at a public event. Why? (Because of his nutty rule that if he goes fund-raising, the Campaign has to arrange a speaking event for Trump’s ego. He was in coal country to get the support of coal industry Billionaires who want to keep on polluting America).
This is nuts. This is total amateour hour by a pretend-campaign. An alleged Presidential campaign. Its like we’re being punked like that one group of fools in that reality TV show who thought they were on a space mission to Mars. It seems like Trump is pulling an every more outrageous ‘mistake’ in his campaign, as hints to us, that he is not really running. How long will we keep believing the pretense.
NO PIVOT EITHER
The political platform for Trump is supposed to see a pivot. His Campaign Chairman (Trump currently does not even employ a Campaign Manager, after he fired Lewandowski two weeks ago, how strong a sign is that? Any other campaign that loses a Campaign Manager hires/promotes a new one within a day or two, max. Not Trump. Its as if he didn’t care his campaign doesn’t have anyone to full-time manage it.) Paul Manafort promised a pivot for Trump from when Manafort joined the team over two months ago. Then Trump promptly said no, he is not going to change a thing. After that we’ve seen a see-saw back-and-forth of Trump positions, sometimes pivoting, and sometimes those pivots may be taking effect (he’s stopped promising to deport all illegals, shifted away from banning all Muslims to now banning only people from some countries, and he’s not pushing his wall, at least not that much anymore). But then we see all the other new nonsense. Just in the past few days he’s had the person introducing him to an event use an Native Indian-mocking gesture (related to the ‘Pocahontas’ attacks on Senator Elizabeth Warren); the use of a Nazi-sympathizer’s white supremacist’s anti-Jewish propaganda in an Anti-Hillary image (with the six-pointed Star of David); and Trump totally failed the audience question on the ‘the jihabis worn by TSA employees at the airport’. And now, yesterday, the Mexican Wall is back again. So much for any pivot.
Note these are all now new instances of Trump raising issues of his racism and bigotry. They fit the narrative that he hates Mexicans, women, US veterans who were prisoners-of-war, Muslims, blacks, the Catholics and the disabled. The Native American attacks were launched by Trump himself (Pocahontas) and this latest incident only prolongs and deepens that issue. If Trump wanted to be Presidential, he could have said that was not appropriate but how could he, he has recently been running the Pocahontas nickname attacks on a daily, almost hourly basis. The Jewish attack is a fresh one but there were lingering concerns of Trump’s racist views in that direction. What is even more bizarre, is that rather than attempting to fix the damage (or God forbid, actually apologize), Trump then yesterday said that actually, they should not have taken the Star of David tweet down (hey Trump, moron, if you REALLY think thats a good idea, then why don’t YOU tweet the Star of David now, and see how that goes?)
And the ‘hibijabi’ comment further supports the already-existing image that Trump is racist against Muslims. If Trump only gets the white male vote and even if he got 100% with that segment, if he loses women and minorities, his election loss will be a record-setting loss. No other actual Presidential candidate has been this openly racist since George Wallace in 1964 (Pat Buchanan ran on a similar platform later but didn’t win the Republican nomination)
Again it makes some ‘sense’ in a political calculation to fuel the flames of hatred, bigotry, sexism and racism, if you want to win the nomination of the party that happens to have the majority of racist voters (it used to be that the Democratic party had most racist supporters). This is a socially dangerous approach (as it will flame racist flames and will incite violence) but yes, there is a callous political calculation that says you can get the support of the racist/bigoted extreme of that party, if you pander to them. This is clearly what Trump did in the primary race. But it makes no sense whatsoever, to now try to continue those lines of attack, for the pivot to the general election. It makes ZERO sense at all. It is in fact COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE. This tactic makes Trump’s chances in the general election WORSE. Trump is behind. He is polling at the high 30s with about 60% of the nation hating him. He already won the racist vote. Every Nazi, KKK and White Supremacist group has already enthusiastically endorsed Trump, including famously David Duke. Trump doesn’t need this pander anymore - but the more the racist and bigoted rhetoric now continues, after Trump has won his primary race, the more it pushes away moderate voters who will not vote for so racist a President. This is total madness for a campaign - at this stage. Any college graduate political science major can tell you this. Its total lunacy.
This method is ACTIVELY destroying his OWN campaign. When Hillary tweeted that fresh video was unveiled that would destroy Trump’s campaign - she linked to the speech Trump gave yesterday. The Democrats could stop running and just enthusiastically report, retweet and shoot videos of the NEW things Trump is saying. He has his base, he is now destroying any chances to win more of the middle. Yet Trump contines on this path. Its almost as if he doesn’t want to win in November. Its as if Trump wants to revisit the primary race and prolong that.
And on the last points, hiring staff? Trump had hired 70 staff by the end of May (Hillary had 700). Trump Campaign has mentioned about 7 new hires during June but also four who have been fired or who quit. One was only two days after being hired. There probably have been more hires but understand: Trump is so far behind, he has to hire 7 people EVERY DAY (and fire none) to get to rough parity of where a normal Presidential campaign would be by late October, ready for election day. It appears that Trump managed to gain a net THREE - in a MONTH. Hillary is hiring 5 more every single day from now till late October (she will be somewhere near 2,000 hired full time staff by then). And then that much maligned data-mining operation. Trump said previously he didn’t believe in data. Now Manafort has convinced him that he has to have that. Trump is still trying to do it on the cheap.
So lets recap. Trump is supposed to:
- Unify the party. He hasn’t. He has made rifts in the party worse.
- Ramp up fund-raising. Technically, Trump has ‘ramped up’ from ‘tiny’ to ‘small scale’. It is nothing like what is needed.
- Prioritize his time to battleground states. About half of Trump’s total time was not there.
- Pivot to general election issues. Trump has made fits and starts to some changes in some positions but has also created NEW extremist positions that worsen his image with moderates.
- Hire more staff. He is bleeding nearly as much staff as he is taking in, and he is miserly at any hires.
- Deploy a datamining operation. Trump is giving that barely more than lip service.
This is nothing like how a major political party operates at this stage. In half of the six, he has made matters worse and in none of the six is he performing ‘on par’ far less, performing AHEAD of where past campaigns have been at this stage.
Contrast to Hillary, her party is more unified than at this point in the 2008 election that led to Obama’s landslide. Hillary’s fund-raising is ramping up massively (she reported hauling nearly 70 million dollars in June, about double she did in May). She is mostly in battleground states and when she isn’t, its for clever publicity stunts like the visit to the bankrupted Trump casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hillary wasn’t far off the mainstream of US political opinion so she doesn’t have to pivot much (most Americans want a higher minimum wage, and more gun control, and lower college costs, and higher taxes for the wealthy, and paid maternity leave, clean energy, keeping the climate change treaty, and equal pay for women, etc - all positions where Trump and the Republicans are on the wrong side of history). Hillary is hiring tons more staff and that datamining machine is already mostly built and now being deployed.
Then in addition to that, in the past two months, Trump has given us a new level of political stupid in his various comments and speeches and rants. Trump has not just been found to be wrong on guns by the NRA. Not that Trump was trying to take away guns, no. His gun position (arming drunks in bars with hidden guns) is so moronic, even the NRA said thats a bad idea! Trump has been found to be wrong on his foreign policy by Republican national security experts; his ideas about war and the military have been condemned by military leaders. His economic speech was actually refuted live online by the Chamber of Commerce. There was a brilliant line on that, its like if the NRA was attacked by Smith and Wesson. There should be zero distance between the Republican party’s nominee and the CHAMBER OF COMMERCE the main lobby group and industry support group of BUSINESS. Its Bernie Sanders type of liberal socialist progressives among Democrats, who should be targeted by the Chamber of Commerce, not Trump, a ‘businessman’. Once again, staffing. Trump doesn’t have enough speech-writers who ‘speak Republican’ and talented enough to do subtle pivots from Trump’s primary race to the general election.
For his VP he is entertaining names that are at best disliked by the electorate and at worst, truly despised by them. For his Convention, Trump has managed to scare away almost all recognized big names in the Republican party, but is attracting the loonie tunes of the fringe like Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Dr Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Dan Quayle, Sheriff Arpaio, Governor LePage and Jan Brewer. Its like a freak show. Its Paul Ryan’s worst nightmare of what is becoming of his party. And then Trump wants sports celebrities (many who have also said no) and when all that fails, he is giving apparently six speaking slots to his family. Thats really what America wants, what the Republican party wants. To see spoiled brats sing the praises of their bully dad, while no doubt showing the trophy endangered wild cats that the boys have been shooting in Africa, or perhaps showing the enhanced body parts that the various Trump women have bought from plastic surgeons.
Is this how a major party Candidate behaves. No. What Trump is doing is like an overlong Saturday Night Live sketch. The past two months can best be desribed as a parody of a campaign if you want to be nice, or else, a stealth destruction campaign by a Democrat intent on destroying everything about the Republican party. If Trump did MOST of the things you expect, and was off on one or two, that could be understandable. If Trump did something silly, initially but then quicly corrected himself and by now, two months after he clinched his nomination, he was back on track, then it would make sense. The above does not make ANY sense. Something is SERIOUSLY WRONG. I have a theory. It fits perfectly with the above behavior.
ITS A MONEY SCAM
There’s been a lot of consternation about Trump’s finances since the May fund-raising filings with the election regulators. We’ve even had fun here on this blog speculating about a possible scam where Trump collects money up to the first debate, teases showing his tax returns after the debate, then finds an excuse to quit. An even more rapid-pace exit was offered here in the comments by one of our readers Oibur, by which Trump could exit the race at the convention (We call this the Oibur Scenario). And shortly after those, the gossip broke about a possible Trump TV network venture. Now in the past week the noise is getting far louder about a possible Trump financial scam. There are stories of various political vendors insisting on being paid in advance simply because they fear Trump may run his campaign into bankruptcy and not pay his final bills (I wonder where they got that idea; he’s only run companies bankrupt six times before).
So lets examine first, does this fit the pattern? Lets say this claim that Trump is running for President is a ruse, a red herring, a decoy. He pretends to run for President while doing something else instead. Its totally legal for Trump to ask for Americans to send him money, if those donations go to a political run for office. And this can then be dispersed pretty broadly by his own discretion (Dr Ben Carson’s long-ended campaign stood on millions of dollars and recently dispersed it in huge chunks to his political pals in various ‘consulting’ project payments etc. He’s essentially playing Santa Claus with his near friends and trusted colleagues. Now is it possible there is some quid-pro-quo where those friends then ‘hire’ Dr Carson to do a highly paid speech for say half that money in the coming 12 months.. who knows, this is very murky and stinks to high heaven). So lets first ignore the ‘how’ part and see is there a ‘why’. Would the pattern of behavior be consistent with getting money in a scam?
So lets recap. Trump is supposed to:
- Unify the party. He hasn’t. He made rifts in the party worse. This is not evidence that Trump is running a scam BUT he didn’t ‘waste any time’ on this time-consuming and humbling effort to try to unify his party, something EVERY candiadate always does. Trump used his time to do SOMETHING else. But in his attacks, he has repeatedly gone after those who are more moderate, so if you wanted to excite the base voters to be enraged, thats a good start. This pattern IS consistent with a money scam.
- Ramp up fund-raising. Trump has done something INTERESTING. He did not pursue the Republican heavy donors for their money. Those were very suspicious of Trump lining his own pockets or running a scam. Instead, Trump now goes to the normal voters - to which he previously pledged that Trump was self-financing so he could not be corrupted - and now Trump is raising money from THEM. The most gullible voters. Republican voters are less educated and watch the least accurate TV network (Fox News); Trump voters are even less educated than Republicans on the whole. Just like Trump University and Trump Institute were designed to target vulnerable ignorant lowly-educated older people, this would fit perfectly the pattern of a money scam. Oh, and if you’re running a major national money scam, then whats wrong with adding some international fund-raising victims too. If you want to grab as much money as possible, you don’t care if that comes from Australia or Finland or Scotland haha.
- Prioritize his time to battleground states. About half of Trump’s total time was not there. Where was Trump? Yes he’s been to Florida and North Carolina and Virginia but he’s ALSO been to California, Texas, West Virginia, Maine etc. Trump is speaking everywhere - this is stupid if he’s trying to win votes - but the suckers willing to give Trump money - they are literally everywhere. This speaking schedule is not consistent with a Presidential Campaign but it is consistent with a national money scam. Its like a Televangelist or Self-help charlatan or cult leader speaking tour. Note that in California, one of Trump’s events was speaking to FARMERS there, a bizarre tiny demographic (not farm WORKERS, but farm OWNERS) - the event where Trump famously said there is no drought in California. Why speak to that segment? Some of his SUPPORTERS are rich white older farm owners (people he could ask money from).
- Pivot to general election issues. Trump has new extremist positions that worsen his image with moderates - but endear Trump to the White Supremacists, the Nazis, the KKK, the extreme gun-lovers and conspiracy theory nuts. Trump KNOWS his constituency. This is a suicidal plan for a general election - but those on the extreme feel VULNERABLE and threatened. They are afraid. Trump feeds their fear and then says - send me your money. Its the political version of the televangelist TV ‘religious’ preacher scam. You will burn in hell, but if you send just 19.99 now, God will forgive you and you will be SAVED. Call this toll-free number now...
Look at Trump. Fear the Muslims. The Mexicans are stealing your jobs. Someone is taking away your guns. The Jews are money-grabbing sneaks. The Native Indians are all drunken frauds. The establishment Republicans have sold out. I am the only honest man in this whole political process. I tell it like it is. I will build a wall. We need to waterboard. We need to start beheading people. We need to nuke someone. This is systematic and deliberate. Trump KNOWS he will lose in the general election with this method, yet he has not stopped doing it. Why? Because these are the loyal Trumpistas, who will buy his goofy hats and send in the money. The undecided voter in the middle will NEVER send Trump money, if they are not onboard already. If Trump pursued a sensible REAL campaign for President, he’d start to win over some in the middle, who would RELUCTANTLY vote for Trump, if not for Hillary (or Johnson or stay at home). These last converts will never contribute. Those Trumpistas who are willing to donate - they’re the white trash that ride their motorbikes and beat-up pickup trucks and Ford Mustangs across the state to attend a Trump rally. Eight in ten who attend a Trump rally are men, 19 in 20 are white. He is preaching to his choir. He is not even TRYING to expand his base.
So what else was he supposed to do?
- Hire more staff. He is bleeding nearly as much staff as he is taking in. What does that tell you? That those who join see the scam from the inside and many cannot take it. They are already under strict non-disclosure agreements that they can’t talk about whats going on, but they are resigning in protest anyway. And Trump? He’s NOT ramping up the staff that he’d have to pay to stay as employees through to November. No, he prefers hiring FINANCE BUNDLERS who are paid a COMMISSION. No salaries. Just professionals of the telephone-based hard sell. This is typical Wall Street scam of a the most despicable-kind of finance company on the brink of collapse which peddles worthless stocks as the great way to get rich because that investment banker ‘knows a secret’ - now everybody go man the phones and sell sell sell (before the house of cards collapses). And who wins? The bosses, the richest on the top.
- Deploy a datamining operation. Trump is not buying the skills and systems from Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or Ted Cruz. No, he is hiring outside modest data based targeting on demographics and psychographics. Its better than nothing. It will be crushed by a Big Data operation like Hillary has. And for Trump its not fully paid for, its ‘rented’. So he sets it up, at modest level, paying monthly, then raises his money, stops payments and declares bankruptcy and who is hurt - the subcontractor of course (like in all of Trump’s six bankruptcies).
SIGNS ARE GLARING
There is concensus on what a Candidate has to do after clinching the nomination. Trump has done none of that. Trump has often acted in OPPOSITE ways of what he should be doing. But his behavior is TOTALLY consistent with a money scam. And it would be quite cold-blooded to suggest that a major party nominee for President was not sincere, and using a run for President of the USA - the most powerful person on the planet - as a ruse, to scam money, but how about Trump? He has done this consistently in his past, used his name to front scams to cheat people out of money - and done this on an industrial scale - he’s been involved in 3,500 lawsuits!! He’s been found guilty of breaking all sorts of laws and regulations all across the country with many more suits pending and in progress. He has very specifically arranged money-grabbing scams with other serial fraudsters like the couple who ran the Trump Institute for him. Remember with Trump University, before the lawsuits, Trump had to issue refunds to one third of all ‘students’ who paid to attend his moronic brainwashing seminars.
We know enough about Trump’s campaign finances so far, to build an outline of at least some of the ways he COULD be attempting to get rich. Note, first of all, that in the April 3, 2000 issue of Fortune Magazine, Trump bragged that he could run for President and make a profit doing it. He was valuing that idea at 100 million dollars of the campaign financing money of that time (about right for that period) but very tellingly, Trump was critical of Billionaire Steve Forbes with his independent run, who according to Trump wasted money. Trump has been CALCULATING the PROFIT angle of a Presidential run for 15 years, literally, before he ran. Trump has prepared for this SCAM for 15 years AND he has watched other rich people in politics.
Trump has been deeply involved in politics and planned this scam for more than a decade. He knows what he is doing. I believe that Trump is undisciplined and an opportunist, but he had a rough idea going in, and then has capitalized on various extra opportunities as they unveiled themselves. If you are truly ruthless and willing to run this scam, then it makes sense to do it to the fullest - because it is all legal (still this year) and before anyone has tried it, essentially all areas are ‘virgin territory’ to collect money.
By the way, Newt Gingrich was widely criticized in 2012 for running a glorified book selling tour, not a proper serious Presidential campaign (when he ran against Romney). Similarly Dr Ben Carson was accused of the same this cycle. Both? Are close with Trump and have no doubt shared their insights of what all they discovered in how to get money in this system and what all is legal or at least, not strictly illegal. Trump and Newt have been friends for years, and have discussed no doubt the finer points of what all Newt was able to do with his run. And now again, Newt is obviously very close to Trump what with talk of Newt for VP etc. They’ve talked very seriously about personal finances because obviously Trump has seen the tax returns of all of his finalists he is considering for VP...
SELF-FUNDING BAIT-AND-SWITCH SCAM
Trump bragged about self-funding in the primary race this time. He didn’t actually self-fund. He only contributed about half a million dollars to his primary race, which cost over 50 million dollars. About a quarter of the money came from actual donations (to someone who claimed to be ‘self-funding’) - lets say in round terms 12.5 million dollars from private donations. Let me pause here - note the absurd level of lies here. Trump paid half a million dollars in personal contributions. His supporters sent in 12.5 million. So he took in literally 25 TIMES more money from donors than from his own pocket, yet Trump has the balls to claim he was self-funding!!! Now what of his famous millions then? That, the remaining about three quarters of the 50 million spent through April was in loans from Trump - lets say that was 37 million dollars by the time the primary race ended when his rivals quit the race. Trump did not self-finance! He lent his campaign millions. He is allowed by US election laws to pay back those loans at any time in his campaign up to the election (he has listed those loans with a due date at end of the year 2016). As of today, with the added loans Trump has made to his campaign, his campaign owes Donald Trump personally, at least 45 million dollars.
To understand the context. For the month ending May for which we have full disclosure paperwork, Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign had 42 million dollars sitting in the bank! Her campaign debts were less than one million. Meanwhile Trump had only a bit over a million dollars in his bank account but held debts of 45 million! First, the two are DIAMETRICALLY opposed. Secondly, there is a 85 million dollar GAP between the two campaigns at the start of June (and more today). Hillary was ahead by 85 million dollars. Thats before we count the SuperPAC (she is ahead) and the combined fund-raising with their respective parties (where she is also ahead). And yes, Hillary raised 28 million dollars to her primary campaign in the month of May (when Bernie was still contesting her and raising 15 million from mostly the same Democratic donor pool). And Trump whose primary race had ended, so he had no rivals begging also for money, managed to raise.. 3.1 million dollars in the month of May !!! Hillary is outraising Trump - a ‘successful businessman’ and the person who knows ‘all the brightest people’ of Wall Street - Hillary outraises Trump by a factor of 9 to 1. And she is already ahead by 85 million dollars. And the two other entities that can help fund the campaign, SuperPAC and shared fund with the party - in both of those she is also vastly ahead. What is wrong with this picture?
Trump lent his own campaign in the month of May two more million dollars. Together with the fund-raising, he took in a bit over 5 million dollars but his campaign burned over 7 million dollars in spending. His modest campaign is bleeding money. This is when any prudent campaign watches the pennies and puts everybody on a diet. Yet Trump rents luxury villas costing nearly half a million dollars; spent nearly a million dollars in jet airplane costs (more than a third of that to his own airline that operates his giant jet - does he really need to fly in the world’s largest private jet which then sits days unusued on the tarmac, rather than buy an economy class ticket like a normal person?) and threw more than a million dollars of the campaign’s total spending to companies and entities owned and controlled by Trump. Yes, a third of the actual money sent in by his contributors in the month of May - went directly into Trump’s own pockets (and another third went to t-shirts and hats, leaving precious little to operate a campaign).
THE TRUMP JET HUSTLE
I was struck by a detail looking at Trump’s past bankruptcies. The casino he bankrupted in Atlantic City. He was paid a huge salary of course, but he also had the casino company pay for the costs of operating his jet, that Boeing 757, not a private jet for executives like a Learjet or Gulfstream, its a commercial airliner which seats 300 people but is fitted in Trumpian luxury for 40. A ridiculous executive toy, fine, if you’re that rich, go ahead and own one. But Trump had figured out how to have that plane without paying for it - he put it on the expenses of the casino! Yet of course, only Trump could ever use it, as his private plane. This was one of many ways in which Trump sucked so much out of the business that he indeed managed to bankrupt a casino, something that most economists would say is impossible to achieve. Casinos run properly or even improperly tend to make TOO MUCH profit (ie because ‘the house always wins’) so that they are tightly regulated and taxed and controlled. Not Trump, he managed to mess that up so badly, it went bankrupt. I do believe that Trump is the only property developer who has managed to bankrupt a Casino. But this was partly how. And that had me thinking... about the jet.
This campaign? I mean now, Trump Make America White Again Campaign, the alleged run for President. Look at the jet. Its doing the same gambit with the jet. The Trump 2016 campaign started in June of 2015 and has been using the Trump jet as a prop all the time. It - the campaign - has no doubt carried the full cost of the Trump jet, so Trump didn’t have to pay for it but could again use it (exclusively even if it sits on the tarmac for a week). And what a ridiculously lavish wasteful expenditure it is/has been.
Now, lets think back. The Trump run started in June of last year. What happened almost identically at the same time? The Apprentice run on NBC was ending. Trump’s role was being minimized to some Celebrity Apprentice appearances only and his salary cut. And then Trump conveniently had a ‘fight’ with NBC so they cut all the ties to Trump (Trump insulting Mexicans and Hispanics in the campaign he had just launched). I have no idea of what exactly NBC had in its contract with Trump but we do know, that contract was downgraded for the intended 2015-2016 season as Trump was no longer the big draw and The Apprentice no longer had the viewership to warrant the money spent on it. I would not be surprised if it wasn’t NBC who had paid for Trump’s jet in the past years. It would be 100% consistent with the Casino deal - and now the Trump ‘Presidential Campaign’ gambit of 2016. So its highly likely that Trump had NBC cover the cost of his Boeing 757 jumbo jet for the years since his Casino went bankrupt. But its also clear that there was a big change - a downgrade of Trump’s contract with NBC last summer.
What if Trump found out in May that NBC was cutting his budget and would no longer fund the lavish lifestyle Trump was accustomed to (while Trump himself was no longer a Billionaire and couldn’t uphold that lifestyle himself). What if this sudden surprising run for President was triggered by that decision and the whole money-grabbing gambit was part of it. And obviously the lies about ‘self-funding’ were all part of it, the Trump ‘Presidential Campaign’ was all a hoax and mainly meant to provide a new way to fund his lifestyle, with money from voters and various other schemes - as a stop-gap year, before Trump could set up properly his next scam (TrumpTV) that would then take over the operation of that ridiculously expensive jet. That jet and its costs is a major concern. No campaign which is bleeding money so badly it spends TWICE what it takes in as contributions and is going several million dollars more into debt - when that debt was over 40 million dollars already - no such campaign will carry the costs of a 30 day rental on a giant commercial jet airliner. That is beyond lavish. Thats Trumpian extravagance and the epitome of wasteful spending.
TRUMP SALARY GRAB
Then the weird part (yeah, the above is not the weird part). Trump is paying himself a salary. This is not what politicians do with donor money. Trump pays himself a HANDSOME salary at the rate of 500,000 dollars per year on an annualized level. Note, the campaign pays ALSO for all of Trump’s expenses, his hotels, his meals, his travel. And in ADDITION to that, it pays him a very nice salary. This is not what Presidential candidates do. They go the year of campaigning without a salary. Not Trump. He wants to be paid for his time. Does this start to sound like a scam to you? Wait, he BORROWS money from Trump himself, to pay Trump a salary. What the f*ck? Yes. He borrowed money from Donald Trump in the past 12 months of 45 million dollars, so he could pay himself a salary of 500,000 dollars. And he intends to pay this loan back - from money he takes in from his suckers - sorry, his donors (so they in fact pay a salary to Trump, for the glorious honor we have of listening to him ramble on about his fights with some judge in California).
84 PERCENT ANNUAL INTEREST RATE
But wait, no. No, not a salary of 500,000 dollars. Actually 10 million dollars. Actually, yes. Did you notice what the FEC disclosure form said about Trump’s salary? It listed the monetary payment and the description said ‘In kind, salary’ which was similar to some other senior staff, but to junior staff it listed only ‘salary’. In kind. What is ‘in kind’? It is a voluntary contribution. A gift or donation (or loan). Trump’s campaign so far HAS paid Trump a salary of half a million dollars BUT the campaign ALSO has committed the campaign to a further DEBT to Trump personally - of salaries he ‘voluntarily delayed’ of some unspecified amount. That is the ‘in kind’ part. Yes, the campaign owes Trump more than what the LOANS are. The campaign ALSO owes Trump a king’s ransom in MORE salary. Do we know how much? No. but we can have a pretty good guess. Trump has said many times that he has lent his campaign 55 million dollars - but the campaign finance documents show 45 million dollars. That missing 10 million is likely the value of the ‘in kind’ which the campaign is OBLIGATED to pay Trump under whatever secret contract they have. So if Trump took 500,000 dollars that leaves the campaign owing Trump another 9.5 million dollars.
Trump is personally owed not just the 45 million he paid, but another 9.5 million in salaries ‘owed’ to him (‘in kind’). And the campaign paid millions to Trump enterprises including the full cost of his ridiculously expensive jet. Trump set up the Trump 2016 ‘Presidential Campaign’ to be his personal bank, where he can withdraw monies in advance, of what his supporters MAY pay in the future, possibly (or possibly not). Again, if this was an honestly self-funded campaign, then all the power to Mr Trump. Good luck. If this was Ross Perot (or Mitt Romney of 2008) I would not begrudge him one penny. Its his money, he can spend it exactly as he wishes. But this is NOT self-funding. Its not even a borrowed campaign - its an over-leveraged campaign which is not 45 million dollars in debt today - its at least 54.5 million dollars in debt (did you see, other senior Trump staff ALSO have salaries marked ‘in kind’ so they too are owed and it won’t be tiny amounts; Trump’s kids and family are there too, all owed more money from this cash-machine, so the total debt is probably over 60 million dollars when those other ‘in kind’ salaries to his family members and top staff are included).
Lets do the credit card comparison. Credit cards are usually limited to about 20% annual percentage rates in their interests, or going above roughly that level is seen as ‘usurious’ ie criminally high interest rates (in rough terms, may be a bit more or less depending on the country). The GLOBAL banking interest rates are close to zero so you’d get a bank loan (if you qualify haha and are not bankrutpcy-prone) for a few points of interest, say 5% in round terms. If you’re a business, in very round terms any project with an 15% IRR (Internal Rate of Return) is worth pursuing (depending on industries, some more, some less, but in rough terms, thats what a reasonably profitable business venture would be). How good is Trump’s ‘deferred salary’ scam. His loans ballooned in late Spring (after Manafort joined the team). So he didn’t owe 45 million dollars from January, back then his loans were maybe 10 million dollars in round terms. The 45 million dollar level is roughly a couple of months old, or say 35 million of it, would be. And lets say, if its paid back in full by about end of July, we’d have the 45 million dollar ‘capital’ part of the loan being out for say 3 months (in round terms).
And Trump now earns a ‘salary’ ie interest on his loan to himself, of 9.5 million dollars. How big is that? Its 21% obviously.. but over THREE MONTHS. By simple interest, its 84% Annual Percentage Rate !!!!! He earns an annualized profit of 84% by lending money to himself, from one pocket to the other. As long as some suckers, sorry, supporters, pony up that money for Trump, this is a golden scheme. Is this not a beautiful racket or not? It puts Bernie Madoff to shame.
And get this. Its all legal (still this year, this will no doubt be utterly outlawed after Trump has finished with his scam). And the richest GOP donors can see right through this - which is why they are totally against giving Trump a penny. They so hate this scam, they are insisting their money given to the GOP will not go to Trump in any deals. Its also why Trump hates doing the phone calls to beg for money - so many of the richest donors will be abusive to Trump on the phone precisely because they can smell the fraud in this scam.
GREASING THE PALM GAMBIT
Then there is the money into Trump pockets. He’s paid something around 8 million dollars of all campaign expenditures up to May, to Trump properties or family members or companies they run (including his salary and the expenditures for his jet etc). First, there is some reason to this. If you are an owner of a hotel chain, and you need to campaign across the country of COURSE you prioritize your own hotels in your lodgings, it would be stupid to give that money to your business competitors. BUT... Rolls Royce factory workers do not drive Rolls Royces. They drive Toyotas and Audis and Volkswagens and Fords like anyone else, even as those are competitor car brands. The top managers may drive Rolls Royces but most don’t.
Same with a luxury hotel chain and golf course resort chain. A Presidential campaign MIGHT put its top staff into a luxury hotel chain (especially if they get good deals out of it) but not their regular staff. Those should be housed in Holiday Inns and Days Inns and Quality Inns. Here is where Trump has been abusive of the campaign funding process - not in illegal ways but in ways no major donor would approve - by flying all sorts of family and friends in luxury around the country, living at full rates in his hotels and golf resorts, and racking up ridiculous levels of living expenses - for a skeleton crew. This is AGAIN something Trump had studied. He saw Newt Gingrich do this in 2012 (and how it angered the donors). So his pretense of ‘self-financing’ was a clever ruse to get around the criticisms of his lavish spending. Now they are only loans to Trump, and expenditures that are long gone. If Trump was trying to collect a NEW amount of 45 million dollars from donors, BEFORE he ran, and then as the money started to come in, Trump spent it on luxury instead of the campaign, he’d be crucified and the money would end. This way he got to eat his cake and keep it too. As far as scams go, this one is brilliant.
If we consider a rough budget of 100 million for an 18 month run, as the original Trump idea from year 2000, so say 5.5 million dollars spent per month (this is in very rough terms, approximately the level he had managed so far, and is clearly FAR FAR below what a real campaign would do) and if from that campaign he’s earned 8 million into his own pockets so far (in 12 months) ie 12 million dollar budgeted to the 100 million total project, its a nice 12% profit just taken as a ‘Trump Tax’ not unlike how Apple takes its 30% out of any App Store sales, off the top. And while not all of that 12 million is profit to Trump and his family, much of it is. If we say 2 million was spent out (for example in jet fuel or actual in-house food catering bills, etc) then 10% is a pretty nice cut of actual profit on the run. So this is the ‘BASE’ of what Trump would earn in any case. Regardless of whether he manages to extort the bigger profits out of the more elaborate scams. Thats over 18 months, so say 6 million dollars per year, that kind of ‘income’ level out of running for President. Not all to Trump, it would be also to his family, so if its say 4 million for Trump and 2 million shared among his kids, each getting half a million from this gambit (plus their other incomes from the other Trump enterprises they all run) not bad.
Remember last year, 2015, Trump made so little income that he qualified for New York state tax deductions for those who earn less than 500,000 dollars per year. Its CERTAIN that Trump personally took in less than half a million dollars of INCOME last year (including whatever he was paid for The Apprentice runs of early 2015, etc). Now his new scam of running for President is one that pays him an annualized salary of 4 million dollars plus a lifestyle worth at least another million (and most of this is more-or-less tax free). I think he’ll very happily do it, especially if it includes luxury living and travel, and he gets to speak on TV all day and have daily rallies with his adoring fans.
THE EXAGGERATION CON
Then there is the Trump standard. He lies. He lies so systematically, if a truth comes out of Trump’s mouth, its a statistical anomaly. Yes, Politifact measured Trump statements and found 78% of them are lies (an earlier measurement was 76% so Trump has INCREASED his level of LIES). Only 22% of what Trump says is true. If Trump stumbles upon a random truth, that is an accident. And this is of course long-standing tradition with his wealth. He has claimed to be worth Billions when he was broke. He has claimed to have given many millions to charity over about a decade when he only gave a total of about ten thousand dollars. Thats an exaggeration at the magnitude of 100 times. not 100% (twice the size). 100 times. What he paid is 1/100th ie 1% of what he claimed (or less). He can easily and systematically exaggerate his personal finances by a FACTOR of 100 !!!! When Trump claims to be worth 10 Billion dollars, its perfectly in line with his character, if he only is worth 100 million dollars. And note - he currently OWES 100 million dollars to one international bank (Deutsche Bank of Germany). We have no idea what other huge amounts he owes to other banks.
When Trump says he has lent his campaign 45 million dollars, I have a pretty solid gut feeling, the campaign never received that amount. Its more likely that the campaign received only say half of that amount - but CERTIFIED that it had received the full amount. So Trump actually paid say 22.5 million dollars but then the campaign signs receipts that they have gotten 45 million dollars - and write a note of debt to Trump worth yes, 45 million dollars. This would be campaign finance fraud and we don’t know it is happening but MANY campaigns have had campaign finance irregularities and Trump has been close to a ton of them, to pick up their little nuances and tricks.
Now do we have ANY warning signs? Trump’s campaign finance chair is Steve Mnuchin. He is a millionaire former investment banker from Goldman Sachs, who left after a successful career there to buy a bankrupted California bank, rebranded it, and then abused its mortgage owners kicking homeowners onto the street and was involved in a long string of lawsuits of abusive banking behavior. Nice guy eh? Then his Hollywood producer career. His company Relativity Media produced such hit movies as American Sniper and Mad Max Fury Road - and that company then went bankrupt. Mnuchin? He escaped before the bankruptcy (how... convenient). There is no evidence he is a crook, but I would be willing to give him the term ‘sleazy’. Exactly a Trumpian guy. And gosh, is he familiar with raping and pillaging assets, benefitting personally from bankruptcies and ruining the lives of others. This is yes Trump’s national finance Chairman. Do you think this guy just ‘might’ be willing to bend some rules to allow a mutually beneficial scam to benefit Trump and Mnuchin, and do some fake accounting? (Are you starting to smell the sweet smell of a bullshit scam going on by now)
USED CAR SALESMAN
Now. If you were honestly clean-as-a-whistle, know fully well you have done nothing wrong and have all the documents clear, you know exactly how you’d behave. You’d open all books, show all documents, right away. Now what about if you’re a crook, know fully well your books cannot stand any kind of scrutiny? Then you’d stall, you’d delay, you’d deflect, you’d misirect; and you’d avoid at all costs letting anyone see those books.
Look at Hillary Clinton and emailgate. She knew it was a (political) mistake. But she ALSO knew there was no legal crime in what she had done. Bad judgment maybe but no crime. How did she behave? She said she has nothing to hide, she will fully cooperate, she will hand over ALL work-related emails - something nobody else had ever done before (consider this for a moment. Bush-Cheney destroyed all emails. Chris Christie destroyed all emails. When Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was putting out fires of the lead poisoning of the city of Flint, he handed over the emails of his STAFF but not his own emails). Then she personally did not read her emails, she instructed her attorneys to separate the personal emails and not hand those over, only work-related emails. And she instructed all her staff to cooperate with the investigation. And Hillary herself went to sit for a 3 and half hour interview with the FBI - and didn’t ‘plead the 5th’ to not answer questions. She was fully open and supportive. Now, yes, there were still ‘Clintonian’ irregularities with THIS all, ie 3% of the emails that were deleted or missing, were actually work-related but hey. 3%. Thats reasonably human error. 97% was there. And the FBI said, there was no deliberate effort to hide or delete emails. They were accidental deletions or lost emails out of simply when systems are updates/upgraded and moved. There was no attempt to deceive or hide. This is how a person confident in their honesty behaves. (Or if you want to be mean about conniving Clintons, you could say this is how a person behaves when they try to appear not to be seen as deceitful).
How does the crooked person behave. I won’t show tax returns. Even if he said before he ran, that of course he would show his tax returns. Even if he had shown his tax returns - regularly - when he filed for his casion licences. Even as he was VERY loudly critical of Mitt Romney when he delayed releasing his tax returns. Even if he DEMANDS to see tax returns of those wanting to be his VP. Not showing tax returns. Trump is afraid of something. It is probably the one thing Trump is most afraid of in his life - showing his tax returns.
Trump claims its because of the audit. Bullshit. Richard Nixon - Tricky Dick for heaven’s sake - handed in his tax returns while under audit. There is nothing preventing Trump from handing in a copy of his tax returns while under audit. But yes, if for some reason he wants to withhold the tax returns under audit - then at least release the previous 5 years, say from 2010 to 2014, and commit to releasing the 2015 year when the audit has finished. A person with nothing to hide has no reason not to show those tax returns - because Trump CLEARLY knew this was EXPECTED of any candidate running for President. The only reason he doesn’t want to show his tax returns is.. he has something to hide. Likely its something terrifying to Trump (like perhaps he is nearly broke again).
Then there is the bizarre promise of ‘forgiving’ his loan AND NOT DOING IT. Where have we heard this before? Wasn’t there an alleged Billionaire who was such an asshole he arranged a big publicity event with veterans, then tried to stiff them by not paying the promised one million dollars. He postponed the payment until hounded by the press for many months. A sleazebag. Yeah, I remember that guy. That was Donald Trump in 2016.
There is a known pattern with people on the brink of bankruptcy. They delay all payments. They take new loans to pay old loans. We KNOW Trump has a 100 MILLION dollar loan from Germany. It may well be that he is struggling to get to the money, and one million dollars promised to veterans is a big pain for him right now. And he tried to get past it by not paying. As there is no one veterans group, he could always tell any one group that he paid someone else (there are hundreds).
If Trump did forgive his 45 million dollar loan to his campaign, there would be SEC filing documents about it. There are none (so far). If Trump had paid such a big amount as 45 million dollars, he would be proudly celebrating it on every campaign stop. Yet he isn’t. He is avoiding the matter exactly the same way as he’s avoiding showing his taxes.
HOW CAN HE COLLECT
I am not enough of an expert either in campaign finance or financial frauds to even imagine every possibility but a few major aspects we can determine. First off, the big sign is the big loan to Trump personally. It was 45 million dollars (and may be slightly more by now, say around 50 million by the end of July). But as Trump has ramped up his fund-raising while avoiding most expenditures, its likely he has now stopped extending more loans to his own campaign. He probably still did some in say early to mid June.
If Donald Trump lent his campaign about 50 million dollars, there is no way he will quit the race unless he is paid that back some way. The most obvious way is if his campaign pays back the loan directly. So lets say that in June Trump collects 25 million dollars in donations, and in July up to the Convention he collects another say 35 million dollars. He could pay back his loan of 50 million, and have 10 million dollars to run a campaign - for about two months. So he could be around zero dollars in the bank by the Convention, but have all of his loans paid off.
Now, another way could be if someone bails out his loan. It could be the Republican party or a SuperPAC perhaps or a rich donor (or arguably a rival politician, imagine Ted Cruz having a secret deal with Trump). So lets say if the Convention has some dramatic surprise ending where Trump quits and hands the nomination back to the Convention or endorses someone else, etc. Then THAT candidate or campaign could probably pay off Trump’s campaign loans. Obviously it always be a combination of any of the above, where any one part pays part of the 50 million.
A third way is the TV network launch idea. If this ‘alleged Presidential campaign’ turns out to be either by design or by opportunity, a launch vehicle for TrumpTV, then the costs could probably be ‘covered’ by that entity. Fox News is a business worth about 1 Billion dollars. I am pretty confident if Trump were able to get his TrumpTV onto cable TV systems in wide distribution, with all the political anger he’s drummed up among base Republicans, he should get to something near Fox News television ratings (and early on even more). If he hired a colorful cast of characters including his various political friends who have done TV before like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, to various media personalities who have supported him (like Rush Limbaugh) to others who have recently surprisingly converted (like Hugh Hewitt), Trump could also have a lineup of talent to rival Fox News with Bill O’Reilly and friends. The way Joe Scarborough was kissing Trump’s ass in the primary race, suggested Joe was auditioning to be the evening news anchor to TrumpTV haha (that relationship seems to have soured since). If you launch a TV network with a budgeted value of 1 Billion dollars in annual revenues, and your launch costs are 50 million dollars, thats a reasonable level of that cost. And Trump’s 10 million dollar annual salary (when ‘in kind’ part is added in), that too is on par with a major TV network star and Chairman and owner. (And TrumpTV would now pick up the costs of running Trump’s Boeing 757 too haha)
Say the TrumpTV repays Trump the network star his expenses that were covered in creating the publicity for the network launch. And Trump could just hand over the financial statements of his campaign to TrumpTV for reimbursement. That while the Trump Campaign itself might be bankrupt and 50 million dollars in debt, TrumpTV could just repay Trump personally, directly, that 50 million dollars and as the Campaign Finance documents are public documents, they’d be probably acceptable ‘receipts’ to get Trump repaid. And beyond these ‘obvious’ ways, I am sure there are dozens more ways, many which could be very obscure and some involving possible international payments invisible to US banking and finance systems and controls. (Again, we know Trump has dealings of very large value with foreign banks, we just don’t know how much and how broadly, would be good to see those tax returns).
In addition to the loan of approx 50 million dollars, are at least two other large payments. Approximately 10 million dollars by now (counting up to the Convention) has already been paid directly to Trump and his various companies and his family and their companies. So in one way he has already moved about one fifth of that loan back to his pockets. Its not pure profit as there would be expenses involved with that money, like jet fuel, hotel rooms, etc. This payment, however, has already been made. That money has already been ‘banked’. This includes the nice salary that usually candidates do not collect, where Trump is paid at a rate of half a million dollars per year, now for more than a year, for pulling this stunt. So that too has already been paid.
Then there is the deferred salary and ultimate profit of the gambit. That is the approximately 10 million and possibly already 12 to 15 million dollars that Trump personally is owed above the 50 million. Again, I expect this too has to be paid to Trump before he would be willing to quit the race, or else, that he’d need to have very clear promises, kind of ‘beyond bankruptices’ type of promises, that those deferred salaries at least to Trump if not all of his top staff, must also be paid. So Trump would/could need something around 62 to 65 million dollars till about the Convention or end of July; or at least say 50 million paid immediately and the last 12-15 million somehow ‘guaranteed’.
DANGER DANGER CAN YOU READ THE SIGNS
And do we have any warning signs? Yes we do. So TV ad spending. Hillary Clinton and her SuperPAC have run 20,000 TV ads already. Thats been mostly in seven battleground states and mostly in just the past weeks. If we’d just allocate it to 3 broadcast networks and say cover about six weeks, its essentially one ad every hour of every day 24 hours per day, night and day - on each of the 3 networks on all of their programs. If you’re in battleground states, you will almost certainly have already been exposed to TV ads by Hillary’s side.
Trump has not aired one single TV ad. The only ads run against Hillary have been by the NRA, in a small 2 million dollar ad buy (not talking about Hillary somehow taking guns away, rather its been a Benghazi hit-job. Yes the NRA believes the best way to defeat Hillary is by running Benghazi ads).
So Trump had collected 26 million dollars during June. Where are the TV ads? Any sane campaign, any ‘real’ campaign, when under siege by 20 million dollars of ad barrage, with another 120 million dollars worth of TV ads booked already against them, would RUSH to spend every penny now, to get on the air. Where is Trump? Its not like Trump is trying to win. Its more like he doesn’t mind how badly he is heading to a gargantuan loss.
Then his hires. He has delegated his ground game to the Republican party. What is Trump hiring? He is rapidly expanding his .. fund-raising team. Not pollsters, not TV ad people, not speech-writers, not press people. Fund-raising team. Is this possibly a scam going on, with a very very urgent, rapid-haul project ongoing. No expenditures that would be useful to ‘win’ a campaign but everything possible to collect money fast.
Now all the behavior by Trump makes sense. Why waste time pivoting to where the election-winning issues are? No sense at all, if he has no intention of staying to the election. The people in the middle won’t send money to Trump. Rather, ignore how much it damages your reputation and pushes up your negatives, pander to the loyalists. Feed them red meat. Throw anger and fear and conspiracies and Nazi sympathies at them. That will open up their wallets. So talk about Pocahontas. Show the Star of David. Talk once again about building that wall (yeah that topic is now back again. So much about Trump 3.0 haha). Blame the media. Now its Chuck Todd who is somehow evil. Talk about Saddam Hussein. Talk about beheading the enemy, waterboarding. Its the SAME incindeary rhetoric that got Trump into the press in the first place. But now just hit that drum, beat it, beat it, beat it. And campaigning? Any state is good, the wider the net the better. Don’t limit yourself to the battleground states where voters are pretty savvy about the elections in general and who get to see candidates up-close every time. Go visit areas candidates don’t usually go to (like haha West Virginia).
I do think the behavior of this alleged Presidential campaign is inconsistent with a real run and an honest intention to try to win. But the behavior is totally consistent with some scam. The scale of the enterprise tells us a lot, the approx 50 million dollars already loaned by Trump; the approx 10 million already paid out to Trump in fees and salaries; and the approx 12 to 15 million more that is in commitments to Trump in the form of deferred payments. By loaning out of his personal funds, about 50 million dollars to the alleged campaign, Trump would get to run about 10 million to his companies and family, plus collect a personal bounty a bit more than that. If we say Trump’s personal total net profit could be in the magnitude of 15 to 20 million dollars, thats a VERY nice profit out of lending his own campaign money that topped out at about 50 million dollars for a couple of months.
On the one hand, if this is a scam, then either Trump starts to pay back his loan (his Campaign would report a smaller amount owed to Trump in statements after May ie now June statement due on 20 July, right at the end of his Convention). Or else the Campaign starts to stockpile cash to prepare for such a payment (and not make major campaign expenditures). These are really dangerous warning signs that Trump is running a scam. The financial statement out on 20 July will be very revealing.
What signs would indicate that Trump is seriously running for President? Most obvious, if he forgives his loans fully. If the election finance documents include that paperwork that he’s forgiven his loans, that would be the biggest single sign. Then there would be expenditures that are to entities that are major known elements of non-Trump controlled or related companies, like say TV networks for TV ad buys, etc. If a significant part of the June finances is now going out in a ‘healthy’ way to say pollsters, for hired staff, more travel expenses (not to Trump owned companies) etc. This would be a positive sign that he is serious. And obviously, if Trump does show us his tax returns, then we could take a big change in his heart, that he probably is in it. Clearly Trump is most terrified of showin those tax returns, and that may be the deepest motivation - not fear of losing, not fear of debating Hillary, but fear of showing tax returns - that may force him out.
And that brings me back to the thought, that those who are running near to bankruptcy, will have suspicious behavior which banks and credit card companies and credit rating agencies know how to spot. They start to avoid paying some bills, they postpone promised payments (aka ‘the check is in the mail’). They cut down on non-essential expenses. They borrow from other sources to pay loans that are due. If Trump actually does run his alleged Presidential Campaign into the ground, and bankrupts it, I would bet there will be tons of people left holding the bag, with worthless promises of future payments. Its what Trump did before. It would be typical of him. Nobody has run this kind of scam before, but Trump did warn us in year 2000 in that Fortune article, he knew how to run a Presidential campaign in a way to make a profit out of it. And his rough budget back then was... about 100 million dollars. We are roughly at that scale now. If Trump has loaned his campaign 50 million dollars, had taken in about 12 million from donors by May, and has had about 26 million dollars of new donations in June, he’d be around 88 million dollars total taken in by the Campaign so far, and then if we add a ramping up July, we’d be around 100 million now, one week into July. There is a very real chance that this is what Trump is doing while pretending to run a Presidential campaign.
We don’t know and we can’t know. Its possible even Trump doesn’t know what he will do, he may have several options and is playing it by ear. He has had some days when he is incredibly neurotic, seeming like he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It could be that he is running his scam so close to the vest, and is so near imploding, that its shaking his confidence. But we don’t know. The signs are bad. We will know obviously by November. If Trump quits, he could do it as soon as just before the Convention (I think this is highly unlikely, it seems the narcissist in him wants the nomination vote by his delegates) but yeah, as I wrote a month ago, a likely timing is just before the first debate. Another obvious timing is during or at the end of, or immediately after the Convention. The 20 July financial filing date now looms very large, Trump could drop out on that day just before the filings are out. I think its the third day of his Convention if I remember the schedule correctly (it would also square with the weird comments Trump had that his Convention is only 3 days in length).
I think Trump will have figured out an exit strategy in the ‘optics’ of it. He has figured out a way to make it seem like he is winning, somehow. He will have a clear scapegoat, Trump must be certain (in his mind) that he did nothing wrong. He must have a clear object to blame, that somehow he was robbed or wronged. (A Convention coup stealing his nomination would play to this aspect, this could theoretically be even a secret deal set up with and approved by Paul Ryan). Or if its the big TrumpTV launch then Trump would need to somehow spin that as if it was legitimate use of his campaign run to do that.
If Trump quits or is forced out somehow, it will mean incredible collateral damage to the Republican party. First off, there is a core of Trump supporters who love him and won’t take any substitute at this point. They will feel incredibly betrayed no matter what, even if Trump endorses another candidate. If the Convention has a palace coup and Trump is ousted, then it will be a riot. And at least a third, maybe as much as two thirds of Trump’s voters will not vote for the GOP candidate and of course, not vote for Hillary either. They will mostly stay home, but some will go vote for the third party options but Johnson has been very critical of Trump too, can’t really see them loving him either.
Thats at least 10% of the total final electorate staying home, all taken from the Republican side. If Hillary would have won by say 15 points, after this she wins by 25 points. No matter which ‘white knight’ savior candidate rode in on some unicorn, they can’t save the 2016 election for the Republicans in this case.
If Trump ‘voluntarily’ quits and endorses the resulting GOP candidate, then its not that bad, but still the GOP will see erosion of several points of voters who just loved Trump and will take this as a slap on their faces. Would that be 5% lost, give or take a few points, that might be the scale. Then if a strong popular moderate candidate ran, with a unified party, so imagine Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Kasich or Marco Rubio (but not Ted Cruz), then the race could be something like 5 to 10 points for Hillary and then the Republican House majority would probably hold but the Senate would still be lost. Obviously there is no way to save the Presidential election for the Republicans, and that means of course that the Supreme Court will also be lost.
Now what happens to the duped Republican voters? They trusted Trump. He would have betrayed them. They will be bitter and if this turns out to have been a money scam, I believe the level of media hounding Trump would see, would be unprecedented, turning just about all who ever liked him to hate him (except thsoe used to hate, ie the KKK and other White Supremacists and Nazis and the conspiracy nutter fringe). But note, they also will feel betrayed by the party and by Fox News and the right wing talk radio and blogs etc. Would Trump care? Of course not, he’s only in this for himself. But the party would be devastated. And note, Trump will have aliented much of the future demographic segments already, now even older less-educated white voters would be embittered and alienated. Its conveivable this really would destroy the Republican party.
What if there is really a ‘Hollywood’ superduper conspiracy trick in play. Hey, Trump’s campaign finance chair WAS a Hollywood producer before that company went bankrupt. He’s read a lot of scripts. There could definitely be some really epic scam in play. An obvious one is ‘the most healthy candidate in history’ to suddenly have a near-fatal health episode, that takes him out of the race but in a way that both allows the Republicans to nominate an emergency alternate candidate AND to let Trump live out in a fantasy that of course he would have won.
Or imagine an assassination attempt. By a supposed terrorist. An ISIS terrorist. One that nearly kills Trump but not quite (he could go into a coma for example). It could then drive voter enthusiasm for the Republicans and whoever would take over on the top of the ticket. I don’t know what are the rules for replacing an incapacitated candidate (or a dead one, or a pretend-dead one - or a kidnapped one). I am pretty certain it is different by each state, they have local rules on how to get onto that state’s ballot but the major parties get automatically on it (Republicans and Democrats). I wonder what is the last deadline to change that candidate. What if Trump is removed leaving the race to his VP (who would pick a new VP). Newt? Or possibly.. Chris Christie after all haha.
Trump could have a million ways to die in the West, a million ways to leave the campaign, without necessarily tarnishing his brand. Then what is the sequence of what happens later. If Trump is out because of the illness or whatever, then is it fair for him to stop the campaign spending, pay off his loans to himself after all - it was ‘never the intention’ but now that he can’t run..., and for a sympathy donation deluge from all those who loved him, to send him more money? Again that Steve Mnuchin... he WAS a Hollywood Producer. One of his movies was ‘Our Brand Is Crisis’ the Sandra Bullock election movie about American campaign professionals duelling in a local election in Bolivia. It had its share of election campaign tricks but it didn’t run an actual fraud on voters like say the Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro classic Wag the Dog. But also, if Mnuchin has PRODUCED a political campaign movie, he of COURSE knows the major political campaign movies to which his movie would eventually be compared. So of course Mnuchin knows Wag the Dog. And in Wag the Dog they created a whole fake war against Albania to divert attention in the last days of a Presidential election. Having a Hollywood Producer this close to Trump with all these signs, gosh, it tells me, anything could happen and we need to study that exit VERY VERY closely. Its likely not what it first appears to be.
So imagine. Trump picks Chris Christie as his VP. Then Trump is shot by an ‘ISIS terrorist’ and he is hospitalized for weeks. He has to quit running and formally withdraws from the eleciton but Christie formally is now the GOP nominee to replace him. Christie takes his place (and appoints a new VP say Marco Rubio). Christie is the former prosecutor, he’d be perfect to now preach the ‘strong’ message to fight the evil terrorists who shot our beloved Trump. But Christie would ALSO be the ‘milder kinder’ version of Trump to replace him, keeping most Trumpistas onboard but also being a moderate at heart, have a reasonable chance in the actual election. Toss in Rubio and its a nice ticket. Then take a big ground-swell of support to Trump who is ‘struggling for his life’ and we could have a tight election race and even the Senate might not be lost.
THEN say Trump is paid back his loans. He could just have a request that his supporters help him pay it off. Look, Trump campaigned for Christie, to help him pay off his campaign loans. Now Christie could say - as the Candidate, hey, folks, send some money to Trump, the least we can do as a nation, is pay off his loans...
And AFTER Trump ‘recovers’ then what? THATS when he could say, look, I’m too old to run again but tell you what, why don’t we start a TV station. TrumpTV...
And Christie? If he wins, he’s golden. If he loses, he stepped in to save the day as the hero, he would hold the House and the Senate, and because the year was so ruined, Christie won’t be blamed for the loss in the Presidential race, he’d be the front-runner for the 2020 cycle. Also look at how much Christie has been out of the public spotlight while Trump says his stupid things. Christie would not be terminally tainted by all the Trumpisms.
Again, there are a million variations we could imagine. But if Trump quits the race, and he doesn’t immediately launch TrumpTV in its place, then its VERY likely whatever was the way he exited, that was planned. And if there is any ‘incident’ expect that was also planned and likely staged and very possibly its a total fake with Hollywood stunts, fake bullets, fake blood, fake cops, fake ambulances, the works (remember the end of ‘Dave’ the movie with Kevin Kline the professional impersonator of the President who was then hired to pretend to be the President when the real President was nearly dead; with Sigourney Weaver as the Wife of the real President who suddenly figures out thats not the President.. that movie had the fake heart attack ending).
We know what a real Presidential campaign has to do in the months before the Convention. Trump hasn’t done any of that and in fact, he has been doing things that go AGAINST what he should be doing. So clearly Trump is not running a serious campaign for President. This is an alleged campaign for President. Is this a massive practical joke and reality TV show we have been experiencing, in the style of Punked? Or is this an epic conspiracy trick by Bill Clinton via his pal Donald Trump who came in as the stealth Democrat to steal the Republican nomination and destroy the party? Or is this a publicity event series to launch a TV channel, TrumpTV? It certainly isn’t behaving like a real Presidential campaign.
If the Candidate was a joker, comedian-turned-politician (like Robin Williams in the political comedy movie Man of the Year) ie like Senator Al Franken or if say David Letterman or Jon Stewart or Jay Leno had run for President, then we could expect that practical joke possibility. But not really Trump. His core modus operandi is the financial scam. Like Trump University or the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City. He had planned this scam for more than 15 years and its rough original budget was 100 million dollars, a level we are now hitting in July. The behavior of the alleged Trump Presidential campaign is not that of a real Presidential campaign. But the behavior is TOTALLY consistent with a money scam. Trump has already pocketed 10 million dollars into Trump companies and his own pockets. He is owed 50 million in direct loans and another 10 million (probably 12-15 million by July) in deferred salaries. And he is that bizarre a candidate, he’s paid himself a salary for this whole run. This is not a Presidential campaign, that is clear. This is something else. I think this is a financial scam. Watch your wallet and don’t send him you money haha...
Note I WISH it not to be so. I truly do wish Trump stays in the race until November because as a political observer, I deplore everything Trump has done in the past year, and want his lesson to go down in history as a warning, the Trump Gambit means you will lose your election to epic scale. I don’t want him getting out early to avoid that fate. But all the evidence tells me, this is not a real campaign. Its incredible, that someone so close to possibly winning the Presidency of the United States would throw this away, as a money-grabbing scam but the signs all say, this is not a Presidential campaign. Its a pretend campaign. An alleged campaign. A fake campaign. Its a ruse, a red herring, meant to distract us from the con he is running. He is scamming the Republican voters to steal millions into his own pockets. I do think its more likely than not, that Trump will quit before November but is paid his 50 million dollar loans (and more) by that time. Its furthermore quite possible that Trump also runs his campaign literally into financial bankruptcy and leaves millions of unpaid bills by the time he quits. We will know. There are four months to election day.