Gold cards and red hats: A Trumpian approach to fundraising

Donald Trump is underwriting his presidential bid by selling the Donald Trump lifestyle — and campaign finance records show it is working.
For the low price of $25, you can snag a Trump Gold Card emblazoned with your name or join a campaign “Board of Directors” that comes with a personalized certificate. For $30, grab one of Trump’s signature red hats — billed as “the most popular product in America.” Supporters can elevate themselves to “big league” by ponying up $184 for a signed, “now out of print” copy of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.”
There’s a catch to some of these merchandising claims. There is no evidence the board of directors exists. “The Art of the Deal” is still in print, available for $9.34 in paperback. And the new campaign edition of the book is signed by an autopen, not Trump, as noted in the solicitation’s fine print.
Regardless, the appeals have paid off.
Through the end of July, people giving $200 or less made up about half of his campaign funds, according to fundraising reports through July. For Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, those small gifts accounted for about 19 percent.
The two candidates each claim over 2 million donors, but Trump has been fundraising in earnest for only about three months, compared to Clinton’s 17-month operation. Both are expected to report the details of their August fundraising to federal regulators on Tuesday.
“His brand appeals to quite a number of people,” said John Thompson, digital fundraising director for Ted Cruz‘s Republican presidential campaign. “It’s smart for him to use it for fundraising. The celebrity factor builds a natural donor community on its own, without him having to do too much.”
Hyperbolic campaign marketing is a natural fit for Trump, who has puffed up the value of what he sold throughout his business career.

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