President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on Tuesday was holding a fundraising event for key donors known as “bundlers,” in a sign of how the former Washington outsider’s team is embracing a more conventional approach to financing its operations.
The mix of meetings and workshops at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., was expected to draw about 200 bundlers, which refers to donors who convince associates to give money to a campaign.
Among those due to take part in Tuesday’s event were Vice President Mike Pence, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire CEO of Blackstone Group
“This shows that we’re getting the Trump campaign going,” Parscale told MarketWatch, speaking outside the hotel entrance on Tuesday. “Today’s size and scope of the event show comparably how excited people are to help this president and move forward. It’s well over a couple hundred people, which is great for our bundling kickoff.”
Also outside the hotel entrance, one event attendee holding a “Make America Great Again” baseball hat said he would be willing to contribute as much as was requested. He declined to give his name, but said he supported Trump because he was a “great president” and “so much smarter than the average politician.”
The Trump campaign, known for its “Drain the Swamp” rallying cry, is including lobbyists in its bundling effort. A New York Times article said a lobbyist who previously worked in George W. Bush’s White House had raised more than $100,000, while The Wall Street Journal reported that another lobbyist who planned to attend Tuesday’s bundling event had said raising money for Trump didn’t feel any more challenging than it was for other major Republican figures.
Raising $100,000 reportedly will put a bundler at the “Builders Club” tier, with special access to campaign events. Those who bundle $45,000 in donations become “Club 45” members, and raising $25,000 puts a bundler at the “Trump Train” level. Such tiers are similar to what past presidential campaigns have set up.
This effort comes after the Trump 2016 campaign didn’t have a bundler program. Without such a program, it had just 8,000 individual donations at the then-maximum amount of $2,700, while Hillary Clinton’s campaign had 53,500 donations at the max allowed under federal law, according to an NPR analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
GOP leaders have said they see a need for this kind of traditional fundraising structure. “We have to be competitive in our fund-raising with whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be,” Todd Ricketts, the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman and a member of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.’s
board of directors, told The Times.
Last month, sixteen watchdog-type organizations — including Issue One, Take Back Our Republic and the Sunlight Foundation — called on all 2020 presidential candidates to “regularly and meaningfully” disclose information about their campaign bundlers. A Center for Public Integrity report in late April said some Democratic hopefuls discussed their bundling practices, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while there was no comment from Trump and other Democratic candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Cory Booker.
For 2019’s first quarter, the Trump campaign reported that it raised $30.3 million, edging out his top two Democratic rivals combined. Trump’s fundraising ability was matched by the RNC, which brought in $45.8 million in the first quarter.