Donald Trump has given more than $1 million to politicians during his multifaceted career. But he’s not as generous as he made it sound during the first debate among leading Republican presidential candidates.
During the Aug. 6 debate, Trump said of his nine fellow candidates: “Most of the people on stage, I've given to. A lot of money.” But state and federal donation records show Trump has only given to three of those nine candidates, and not in very large sums. He’s donated to just one of the other seven GOP candidates who weren’t included in the debate. And Trump has also given to Hillary Clinton, so of the 22 major declared candidates of both parties, Trump has donated to five of them.
Here’s a breakdown:
Scott Walker. Trump gave the Wisconsin governor $10,000 last year, when Walker was running for a second term. It seems to have helped, since Walker won. Still, it’s a tiny fraction of the $70 million or so Walker has raised during his five years as governor.
Mike Huckabee. In 2012, Trump gave $2,500 to the former Arkansas governor’s political-action committee, known as Huck PAC. As donations go, that’s a fairly small one.
Jeb Bush. Trump gave a mere $500 to Bush’s campaign in 2002, when Bush was governor of Florida. That’s not the kind of sum that gets you invited to the governor’s mansion.
George Pataki. The former New York governor wasn’t included in the main GOP debate, so Trump wasn’t referring to him when he said he’s given to most of the people on stage. But he did give at least $43,500 to Pataki during his years as governor, from 1996 to 2006.
Hillary Clinton. It’s certainly unusual that a presidential candidate of one party has donated money to a leading candidate of the other party. But Trump’s contributions to Clinton only total a modest $8,500. All of those donations came during Clinton’s tenure as senator from Trump’s home state of New York, from 2000 to 2009. Clinton has drawn close to $400 million in campaign contributions during her 16 years as an active politician, so if she attended Trump’s wedding solely because of the $8,500 he kicked in -- as Trump suggested during the debate -- she comes cheap. More likely, Clinton was there to take part in an A-list event where she’d bump into some of the most important people in her state.
Trump’s donations reveal a typical businessman looking out for his interests -- and what politicians can do to help him -- more than an ideologue backing like-minded candidates. He’s given money to New York-area politicians of both parties, for instance, including both of New York’s Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as local Republicans such as New York Congressman Peter King. Trump gave a token $2,500 to the Romney presidential campaign during the 2012 election.
Until 2008 or so, Trump gave significant amounts of money to both Democratic and Republican causes, but during the last five years he’s turned sharply Republican. Since 2010, he’s given roughly $500,000 to Congressional committees that back Republicans and to third-party GOP groups such as American Crossroads. Some of those groups have probably given money, in turn, to Republican legislators Trump is now running against, though Trump likely has no say as to where that money goes.
One other group has pulled in a lot of money from Trump: Florida Republicans. But none of that has gone to former governor Jeb Bush or current Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Instead, most of the money -- about $235,000 during the last four years -- has found its way to current Gov. Rick Scott. No doubt that relates to Trump’s interests as a real-estate baron in Florida, where he owns the Mar-a-Lago and Trump Doral resorts.
For all his self-reported wealth, Trump is not a megadonor when it comes to politics. He’s given nearly $600,000 to federal candidates and third-party groups since 2010, but that doesn’t even place him close to the top 100 donors. That could change, however, since Trump has now committed to making lots of big donations to a new candidacy: his own. Trump better be as rich as he says, because he’s going to need the money.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.