“No one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it,” observed George Orwell in his prescient novel “1984.” However, until Donald Trump came along most U.S. presidents were at least subtle about their eagerness to retain power-especially during the first 100 days.
Trump is the first president to overtly and aggressively campaign for a second term while barely having started his first. In the first three months of 2017, Trump’s 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee have raised more than $42 million.
During the quarter, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. raised $7.1 million. Another $9.8 million was collected by Trump’s Make America Great Again Committee. The rest of the money went to the RNC.
Immediately following his election last November, Trump set about raising money for his inauguration. That haul was $106.7 million-about twice the previous record set by President Obama for his 2009 inaugural. Included in Trump’s windfall was a $5 million gift from Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
For Obama’s first inauguration he set a limit of $50,000 from any single source; for his second inauguration the ceiling was $1 million. Trump, however, set no limit. In fact, Trump got a million dollars each from four different NFL team owners.
But wait! There’s more. Unlike his predecessors, Trump has continued relentless fundraising following his inauguration. Daily emails to supporters seek cash contributions and also tout Trump-branded merchandise such as T-shirts and bumper stickers.
And where is that money going? In the first quarter of 2017, Trump’s campaign used nearly $500,000 for lodging at Trump hotels, rent at Trump Tower and food from Trump restaurants.
Among the oddest expenditures: more than $28,000 to the private consulting firm operated by Stephen Bannon, who is on the White House payroll as the administration’s chief strategist.
One unintended consequence of Trump’s behavior since taking office is that Democrats are also reporting near-record fundraising for local candidates. But the figure is short of what Trump’s campaign and the RNC have raked in.
The “permanent campaign,” as it’s sometimes called, was developed by Bill Clinton and has, to some degree, marked all subsequent presidencies. But Trump’s unabashed campaigning-beginning with a rally in Florida just 29 days into his term-is unprecedented.
Indeed, on the very day he took office, Trump filed with the Federal Elections Commission for the 2020 race. By comparison, Barack Obama didn’t file for re-election until he was more than two years into his first term.
So much is written about Trump’s conflicts of interest-from his vast business holdings to his entanglements with foreign governments. Yet, it seems, the biggest conflict of all is his own ambition.
No democratically-elected leader should focus his power primarily on the objective of retaining power.
Peter Funt can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com.