Donald Trump steered clear of fundraising throughout the GOP primary, but has embraced donations since then. But are North Texas donors embracing him?
Trump was in Texas on Tuesday. The Republican presidential nominee started the day at a private fundraising luncheon in downtown Fort Worth, where tickets ranged from $2,700 to $250,000. From there, he went on to Austin for another fundraiser -- and an evening rally.
Hal Lambert noticed something unusual when he got the invitation to the Trump fundraiser in Fort Worth. He said there was no host committee listed. No address, even.
“That’s not normal with less than 90 days left in a cycle,” he said. “You want to have everybody behind you, you want to have everyone know who’s involved. Normally, you do.”
I reached out to a number of North Texas Republican donors and Lambert was the only one who was willing to talk on tape. He’s a Fort Worth-based investor who helped lead the national finance team for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Lambert said he may end up voting for Trump in November, but he won’t be writing any checks.
“People do want to win against Hillary Clinton, but I think the bind in the donor community, or at least those who I’ve spoken to and know pretty well, is that they don’t want to give to Trump,” he said.
Trump has been slow to build fundraising momentum. As of July 31, Clinton and her allies have raised almost $700 million, about twice as much as Trump’s team, according to the Washington Post’s tally of campaign, party and Super PAC fundraising efforts.
First, the real estate mogul started late, after accusing his primary opponents of selling out by taking donations. Now, he’s courting those same donors.
To be successful, Lambert said Trump needs to convince donors that he can win. The last few weeks of controversy and diminishing poll numbers aren’t helping, he said.
“If we look up later in September…and it’s not looking good like it is now, it just gets worse,” he said, “because people go, ‘Well, he’s not going to win, I’m not going to waste writing a check to someone who’s going to get killed in the election.’”
Still, there are plenty of big name North Texas donors who’ve gotten on board the Trump train.
In Fort Worth, some members of the vaunted Bass family are backing Trump, according to the Star-Telegram. And campaign filings show donations from oilman Charles Moncrief. Over in Dallas, investor Ray Washburne has signed on as a vice-chair of the Trump Victory Fund.
Billionaire T. Boone Pickens became an early Trump convert. In an interview with NPR in May, Pickens wrote off Republican establishment anxiety around their nominee.
“They can’t believe it isn’t working like it has always in the past. Somebody wants change, and it happens to be a businessman who stepped up,” he said.
Still, Trump ranks a distant seventh in a tally of Texas donations over $200 compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. He trails far behind old primary foes and Hillary Clinton. Even Bernie Sanders has raised more money from Lone Star State supporters. So Trump has to be hoping that the fundraising events in Fort Worth and Austin will help him turn the tide.