Donald Trump just can’t stop writing me.
“Friend, Did you see my email from a few days ago?” he asked on Tuesday. It was, I believe, the sixth message I’d gotten from him since Labor Day — aka Monday. All addressed to “Friend.” Now, if Trump was really your friend, don’t you think he’d call you by your … name?
Anyhow, all of these letters involve fundraising. And great deals! Contribute any amount to Trump’s joint fundraising committee, Save America, and “your gift will be INCREASED by 500%.”
Extremely unclear where that extra cash will be coming from. Maybe a rich person who agrees to match donations, the way some do during the very, very, very much more modest fundraising drives for places like public radio stations? Maybe a miraculous money tree?
“We have a CRITICAL End-of-Month fundraising deadline coming up, and each day when I ask my team who has stepped up, they NEVER mention YOUR NAME. Why is that, Friend?” the wounded former president demanded.
Once again we will note that it’d be pretty strange for your name to come up when nobody seems to really know what it is. I like to picture someone in a meeting asking, “Hey, what about Friend?”
To be fair, Trump is almost an internet monk now, compared with the way he communicated during his last presidential campaign. In the months before the 2020 election, his supporters were reportedly getting an average of about 14 emails a day from his organization.
Trump hasn’t said whether he’ll be running again in 2024. He’s plenty busy with other stuff, like holding rallies, playing golf and spending the anniversary of 9/11 providing commentary for a boxing match at a Florida casino.
And he’s hardly the only major political name out beating the bushes for donations. Nancy Pelosi was in my inbox Wednesday with a letter decrying the new Texas anti-abortion law and with a petition at the very end of which we learn that Nancy “needs $981 more in the door before midnight to hit her goal.”
Kind of hard to believe she couldn’t just pick up the phone and nail down that $981. But on the plus side, Pelosi indicated she’d be very happy with just $20. And she did get in my actual first name.
Pelosi’s correspondence isn’t nearly as … energetic as you-know-who’s. “Please contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY and your gift will be INCREASED by 500%,” writes “Donald J. Trump 45th President of the United States.” Just in case you’d forgotten.
Any amount? Sextupled by magic? “There’s no way to know what they mean by that,” said Robert Kelner, a Washington lawyer who’s an expert in campaign finance issues.
Well, it’s certainly impressive how urgent Trump makes it all sound. During the Labor Day barrage he announced that “your 400% impact offer has been extended” and that if you just “CONTRIBUTE NOW,” a $250 contribution will count as … $1,250!
If you’re interested, please make sure it happens only once. As Shane Goldmacher reported in The New York Times this spring, a 63-year-old cancer patient in hospice donated what was just about his last $500, and then discovered $3,000 had been withdrawn by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days, leaving his account empty and frozen. The campaign, you see, had set up a default system that siphoned new money every week from donors who didn’t realize they had to make a special effort to opt out.
Very tricky business, that. Another Trump letter includes boxes — prechecked for your convenience — with rousing statements like: “President Trump, I need you right now. This is where we step up and show the left-wing MOB that REAL Americans are REJECTING JOE BIDEN’S corrupt agenda.” Said box quietly ends, “Make this a monthly recurring donation.”
Campaign finance is, by any measure, a wicked complicated matter. Mistakes do happen. In the last 2½ months of 2020, the Biden campaign made 37,000 online refunds totaling $5.6 million. Which sounds like a hell of a lot until you consider that for the same period, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee had to issue more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million.
Many of the Trump emails suggest he needs money to challenge those evil, wrongheaded, “Biden won!” election results. Doesn’t seem like all that great a legal investment. Although probably better than those lawsuits Rudy Giuliani announced in a parking lot next to a porn store in Philadelphia.
Some of the money that goes to Trump’s PAC is used to underwrite his travel around the country and — if he happened to be in the mood — could be used to pay salaries for his family members or pricey events at, say, a Trump hotel.
No small matter, that. Think about Trump Tower. On the one hand, it’s in even worse shape than most Manhattan real estate, carrying a name not all that useful as a New York brand. On the other, his PAC has reportedly been shelling out more than $37,000 a month for office space in Trump Tower. Not at all clear what said space is needed for, politicswise, but if Trump ever decides to reboot “The Apprentice” with a pandemic flair, he’s got the set ready.
GAIL COLLINS is a columnist for The New York Times.
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