As Donald Trump dips his toe in the campaign-fundraising pool, new financial reports show the water isn't exactly warm.
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He raised less money from donors in the month of May than any other major-party presidential nominee since 2000.
In his first month after changing his stance and saying he would ask for donations to fund his general-election campaign, Trump raised $3.1 million in May — plus $2.2 million in loans from his personal wealth — compared with the $25.5 million Hillary Clinton took in last month, according to new campaign-finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and released Monday night.
After self-funding his primary campaign, Trump found himself on pace to raise and spend less than almost any other major presidential candidate in the modern era of campaign finance.
His May fundraising total topped Al Gore's reported $4.4 million in 2000 only by virtue of the candidate's loans. It fell short of the $6 million reported by George W. Bush in 2000, Bush's $13.9 million in 2004 and John Kerry's $30.8 million. Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 each raised sums in the low $20 million range. In 2012, Obama raised $38.3 million in May.
Candidates raised and spent less in 2000 and 2004, when all four major presidential campaigns chose to accept public funding in the latter stages of the campaign — which restricted fundraising. Since 2000, campaign fundraising totals ranged from Gore's $128 million to Obama's $749 million and $726 million in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
Even counting the $45.7 million that the billionaire has lent his primary effort and the nearly $400,000 he has donated to it, his campaign has taken in just $63.2 million so far, well behind the $232.1 million taken in by Clinton.
It's even farther behind the $122 million reported by Romney by this point in 2012 and the $288 million taken in by Obama by the end of May 2008. Among candidates since 2000, Trump's total bests only the $52 million reported by Gore.
Campaign-fundraising totals have not been adjusted for inflation, and campaign costs have only grown.
The May totals do not reflect more recent activity as Trump's fundraising operation has ground into gear. This month he has attended fundraisers co-organized by the Republican National Committee. He claimed last week to have raised $13 million to $14 million in one day.
The founder of a Trump-allied super PAC, which was not created until June, told CNN he had secured $32 million in commitments to support the candidate. Those totals fall after period covered by the latest batch of official campaign funding reports.
Other than have a “donate” button on his website, Trump did not do much to pursue contributions during his primary campaign. After he presumably secured the GOP nomination, however, he changed tack and said he would fund his general-election campaign with donations, not his own wealth.
He began May by forcing his last two remaining primary opponents out of the race. Early that month, he set up his first fundraising operation, announced two joint fundraising committees with the RNC and designated a finance chairman — a position Clinton reportedly had filled as early as March 2015, before she was officially a candidate.
More recently, Trump has backed away from a fundraising target of $1 billion, saying it's not necessary to raise and spend so much. In several ways, his campaign falls far behind modern standards as he continues to defy the conventional wisdom of campaign organization.
While most candidates spend hours on the phone asking for money and slog through schedules packed with fundraisers to pay for field staff and expensive ad campaigns, Trump has derided current standard practices — like data analytics and voter targeting — as overrated or unnecessary, opting instead to run a nationwide publicity campaign built on news coverage and cable TV interviews.
This cycle's historic funding imbalance reflects that strategy and does not account for Trump's more active recent fundraising. Regardless, the latest numbers are remarkably uneven.
Trump's shoestring campaign entered June with a mere $1.3 million in his campaign coffers, compared with Clinton's $42.5 million.
If one counts the campaign operations, party national committees and super PACs backing each candidate, Republicans entered June with $21.7 million in their war chest; Democrats had $103.4 million.