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Noted Self-Funder Donald Trump Is Ready to Start Asking for Your Money

The presumptive Republican nominee has hired a former Goldman Sachs partner to begin fundraising in order to compete with Hillary Clinton in the general election.

by Sarah Mimms
May 5 2016, 7:30pm

Photo by Jon Elswick/Associated Press

Donald Trump the regular old Republican candidate and even Trump the Republican frontrunner didn't want your money. He even famously told a group of Jewish Republicans that they wouldn't support him because he wouldn't take their checks.

But Trump the presumptive Republican nominee is changing his tune as he enters a new phase of the campaign.

Trump's unwillingness to take big money, and to self-fund much of his presidential campaign (although he's already taken more from donors — about $12 million — than he typically admits) has been a major part of his appeal in the 2016 campaign. In interviews with numerous Trump supporters, Republicans and Democrats and independents, throughout this campaign, nearly all of them came back to that one point: He isn't bought and paid for. It's a message not dissimilar to that of Bernie Sanders.

But Trump now acknowledges that he is going to have to begin fundraising in order to compete with Hillary Clinton — and her SuperPAC — in the general election. And on Thursday, he hired a former Goldman Sachs partner to help him do it.

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Trump, simply put, does not have the money to fund a general election battle on his own. Although the GOP nominee puts his own net worth at $10 billion, Forbes estimates that it's actually closer to $4.5 billion, and far less of that money is liquid and ready to be spent on a presidential campaign. Forbes puts that figure at about $327 million. So far, Trump has poured nearly $36 million into his own campaign account, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The 2012 presidential race cost about $7 billion, with President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spending a combined total of about $3.2 billion, according to the FEC, while the parties and outside groups picked up the rest of the tab.

And so Trump announced this week that although he will continue to put his own money into the campaign, he will also begin soliciting small contributions, much in the style of Sanders. But he's also vowed to begin diving into his deep Rolodex of wealthy friends and business associates and to jointly fundraise with the Republican National Committee in order to raise "over $1 billion" for his campaign.

But, Trump told ABC: "I don't want to have anybody have any influence over me, that I can tell you."

After months of campaigning as an outsider averse to the conventional trappings of a political campaign, Trump is now moving to a structure that will be much more familiar to the establishment he has so often railed against.

Related: Trump Is Again Causing What Seemed Impossible: Republican Support for Hillary Clinton

The transition began last month, when he hired two longtime professional campaign staffers to lead his operation, Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, who previously ran Scott Walker's presidential campaign.

But Trump isn't totally abandoning his outsider credentials. Rather than hiring another campaign veteran to help him fundraise, Trump announced Thursday that he is bringing on Steven Mnuchin as his national campaign finance chairman, a man with whom he has a lot in common.

Mnuchin also comes from a wealthy New York City family, whose Rolodex appears to be about as big as Trump's. He too followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a partner at Goldman Sachs before decamping to start several other financial firms, including a venture with business magnate George Soros, a major donor to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party.

Mnuchin and his family are also major benefactors in the New York City art scene, and he has close ties to Hollywood as well. In 2004, Mnuchin founded his own firm, Dune Capital Management, and steered the group toward financing major feature films. Ten years later, he joined Relativity Media, a film studio in Beverly Hills. As a result, he has quite the IMDb page, which credits him as an executive producer on 19 films including The Lego Movie, Edge of Tomorrow and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Some of those Hollywood relationships have soured in recent years: Mnuchin, like Trump, is currently being sued.

Mnuchin left Relativity Media, where he was a co-chairman, two months before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015, according to Variety. Shortly after his departure, OneWest Bank, of which Mnuchin was chairman, cashed out $50 million it was owed by the media company. Now, another financial backer for Relativity is suing him, claiming that Mnuchin helped to give his own bank preferential treatment, allowing it to rescue funds from the media company before it declared bankruptcy. Relativity emerged from that bankruptcy in March.

Related: The 'Never Trump' Movement Won't Give Up Even Though Trump Won

But while Mnuchin comes from outside of the political sphere, he hasn't stayed out of politics. He has donated nearly $150,000 to federal political candidates over the years, according to FEC documents. The majority of Mnuchin's contributions went to Democratic candidates. And just like his new boss, Trump, that includes donations to Hillary Clinton's previous presidential campaign and her Senate bids (although he initially supported her Republican Senate rival, Rick Lazio).

Mnuchin also gave money to support Obama's 2004 Senate campaign and his 2008 run for the White House, as well as John Kerry and Al Gore's presidential campaigns, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who could be the majority leader of the Senate next year if Democrats take control of the chamber, among others.

Along the way, Mnuchin supported a few Republican candidates, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and, oddly, former Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss. In 2012, he really doubled-down on the Mitt Romney campaign, giving $27,500 to support the Republican presidential nominee and another $20,000 to the Republican National Committee. That same year, however, he also gave to Michael Wildes, a Democratic immigration lawyer running for Congress in New Jersey.

With Mnuchin by his side, Trump is looking to beef up a national campaign to take on Clinton this fall. Now that the Republican primary is behind him, Trump is about to face an onslaught of Democratic money, and that means steering away from one of the fundamental promises of his early campaign.

Follow Sarah Mimms on Twitter: @SarahMMimms

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