At The Huffington Post, Bob Burnett reports that Donald Trump raised a sizable amount of money last month:
Open Secrets uses FEC data to report that, at the end of June, the Trump campaign had $20m on hand. According to the latest Trump reports, they raised an additional $80 million in July and, early in August, had $37m on hand. If you do the math, that means Trump spent $63m in July. He didn't spend it on TV advertising. How did Trump spend the money?
That is a really good question. If Trump is forgoing TV ads—usually the biggest campaign expense—what is he spending all his money on? For comparison's sake, Hillary Clinton has been on the air nationwide for months. She spent more than $13 million just on ads during the Olympics. Burnett also notes that there's no evidence Trump is paying to reserve ad time closer to the election.
Another big expense is field offices and get-out-the-vote efforts. But Trump hasn't been spending money on that either:
Donald Trump has one field office in Florida, a state of 65 million square miles and 29 electoral votes. Which is to say, the GOP nominee barely has a campaign in a state he needs to win to have any real shot at the White House. And yet Trump would like the Republican National Committee to devote its limited resources to funding a get-out-the-vote operation for him in Hawaii. According to Politico, Trump has asked the RNC to open field offices for him in all 50 states — a proposal that has baffled many of the committee's aides.
I asked a Republican campaign manager, who is a veteran of the McCain presidential campaign and a number of high profile GOP senate races, if there was any way that amount of money could be being spent in ways that didn't seem obvious to outside observers. He couldn't think of any.
There are two unsavory possibilities to consider. One is that Trump's campaign is being bilked by political consultants and other cronies surrounding him. There's some precedent for this. When Trump fired his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, it was accompanied by a probe of Lewandowski's financial decisions. There was more than a little suspicion that he was getting kickbacks from campaign vendors. However, even though campaigns do millions in outside spending, running through $63 million in a month through fraudulent spending is Brewster's Millions territory even for dozens of corrupt campaign operatives.
Burnett raises the other intriguing—and alarming—possibility, and one that's caused a lot of speculation:
The end-of-June FEC report indicates that Trump had lent his campaign $50m. Although Trump promised to forgive this loan, NBC news reported that he never filed the papers to actually do this. Perhaps Trump repaid himself from the $63m, leaving little money for ads and field staff.
However, that NBC news report is dated June 30, and July's FEC report did include paperwork showingTrump had forgiven his loans to the campaign. Reached for comment, Trump's campaign responded to THE WEEKLY STANDARD making it clear that Trump had forgiven his loans, but offered no comment on how if and how the campaign spent $63 million last month.