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The real reason why Wall Streeters paid $50k to have dinner with Donald Trump Tuesday night

Julia La Roche
Correspondent
People stand outside the Le Cirque restaurant as they arrive for a fundraising event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, began making the rounds on Wall Street to raise much-needed cash for his campaign.

On Tuesday evening, Trump held a fundraiser dinner at the posh New York City restaurant, Le Cirque, with tickets going for $50,000 a seat. The event brought in an estimated $3 million.

Nearly 60 people were in attendance for the dinner, including: hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, private equity chief Stephen Feinberg of Cerberus Capital, billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, real estate developer Richard LeFrak, hedge fund manager Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies, and Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge Capital. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was there too.

“What brought everyone all together wasn’t necessarily a love for Donald Trump, but a huge commonality to make sure Hillary Clinton doesn’t win,” said one attendee.

Investor Carl Icahn (R) stands outside the Le Cirque restaurant with others before a fundraising event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Most of these business titans are new to the Trump train. During the primaries, they supported different Republican candidates. For instance, Paulson gave to pro-Scott Walker and Jeb Bush super PACs, while Mercer put millions towards Ted Cruz, records show. Icahn, on the other hand, endorsed Trump in the fall of 2015.

Trump didn't give a formal speech to the crowd. Instead, he was more conversational.

Over steaks and branzino, he told the group that he'd like to see an agreement reached regarding corporate taxes. He'd like for congress and companies to figure out how to bring the overseas profits back to the US.

"That's the kind of stuff Trump should be talking about," said the person who attended. "The issue is how do you thread the needle to make it an everyday person’s issue? The typical guy in Iowa or Kansas is not going to understand that's a way you bring back economic growth. It's inside baseball."

New York Jets owner Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson (L) arrives at the Le Cirque restaurant with others for a fundraising event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Trump also downplayed concerns about his campaign’s finances.

Trump, who self-funded his campaign during the primaries, is massively trailing behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign war chest. Filings show that Trump had about $1.29 million cash on hand at the end of May, while Clinton had $42.5 million.

During the dinner, Trump made a point that he's not running a traditional campaign and he's not a traditional candidate. He doesn't need to raise $1 billion. He already generates free publicity from the media coverage. He also noted that there were thousands of anti-Trump ads that ran during the primaries and he still won.

Scaramucci, who initially supported Walker and then Bush before joining Trump's national finance committee in May, told Fox News this week Trump expects to do it a lot more leaner.

"He had $57 million...and took out 16 candidates, so that's $3.35 million per kill. [Hillary Clinton] had $183 million and she took out one 73-year-old socialist that wasn't a Democrat until 23 months ago. She's going to need a lot more money."

Melania Trump steps out of a limousine as she and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (not seen) arrive at the Le Cirque restaurant for a fundraising event in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar


Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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