by Walter Brasch
With a month left before the November general election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are trash-talking each other in a financial race to the White House.
According to the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Clinton has raised about $516.8 million for her campaign. Total spending by outside groups and SuperPacs supporting her was an additional $31.7 million; the total spent opposing her was about $40.2 million.
Trump has raised about $205.9 million. About 45 percent of his income is from individual contributors; one-third is from Trump himself. Total spending by outside groups and superPACs supporting Trump is about $69 million; opposition spending is about $139.7 million.
Both Clinton and Trump are spending heavy on TV ads. Clinton and pro-Clinton outside groups have spent about $190 million, and Trump and pro-Trump outside groups have spent about $50 million, according to data compiled by Advertising Analytics. However, Trump has mitigated the difference by a barrage of Tweets to 12 million followers, and by constant calls to TV stations. In Pennsylvania, one of nine "swing states," Clinton has outspent Trump, $17 million to $6 million.
Trump's problem isn't a case of having less income than Clinton. Every time he opens his mouth, network TV and cable news stations are more than willing to air whatever he utters. His problem is a malignant case of braggadocio. He brags about how great a businessman he is, and says he is smart because he doesn't pay taxes but he uses every tax code loophole he, his attorneys, and accountants can find. This past week, the New York Times disclosed he took a $917 million loss in 1995, and could easily have written off income for every year since then. In a twisting logic that baffles even those who never studied philosophy, Trump blames Clinton because, he says, "Why didn't she ever try to change those laws so I couldn't use them?" His four bankruptcies helped assure his companies would have losses. However, because he refuses to release copies of his taxes, unlike every major party candidate in the past four decades, it's difficult to determine if Trump is a great and experienced businessman or just a great and experienced juggler.
Also within this past week, the New York attorney general issued a cease and desist order against the Trump Foundation for not registering with the state's Charities Bureau and for violating state rules by making several donations from the Fund to politicians and political groups. The Washington Post reported that the Foundation probably violated IRS regulations by spending $20,000 for a portrait of Trump, and $12,000 for a jersey and a football helmet autographed by Tim Tebow. The newspaper previously reported that the Foundation has spent about $250,000 to settle lawsuits. His problems won't end with New York. The Foundation wasn't registered in the 40 states that require registration. It is possible that Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois, three of the states that are rigorous in enforcing rules for charities may file against the Foundation.
A third problem that surfaced this past week is an Associated Press story, based upon statements by about two dozen crew members and contestants of Trump's "The Apprentice USA" TV reality show. According to the AP, citing the sources, "Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language," including rating "female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he'd like to have sex with." The cast and crew of his show also told the AP that Trump wanted his female celebrity contestants to show more cleavage and wear shorter dresses. Hope Hicks, speaking on behalf of Trump, called the statements "outlandish, unsubstantiated, and totally false claims fabricated by publicity hungry, opportunistic, disgruntled former employees [and they] have no merit whatsoever." However, the AP's story confirms that Trump has a history of demeaning women, something the Clinton campaign has seized upon in its TV ad campaign that has a series of comments by Trump who calls women pigs, fat, bimbo, ugly, and other names not suitable for a family-based newspaper. That and his frequent use of obscenity and disregard for civility alone makes him unsuitable for the presidency, according to the ad campaign.
Trump has attacked Clinton for her e-mail scandal, something she should have acknowledged months before her public apology. In response to her attacks upon him not being suitable for office, Trump charges Clinton as unfit for office, and adds crook and liar to his definition of who she is.
The independent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CFRB) analyzed each candidate's economic plans and concluded that Clinton's proposed budget would increase the debt during the next decade by $200 billion, and Trump's business model proposal would increase the debt by $5.3 trillion. The CFRB noted, "Neither candidate has presented a proposal to address our growing national debt and put it on a more sustainable path, nor have they offered a proposal for shoring up the Social Security, Medicare, or Highway trust funds.
By the election, each candidate, their SuperPacs, and outside groups will have spent more $1 billion to be elected to an office that pays $400,000 a year.
By contrast, the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson raised about $8.5 million, and the Green Party's Jill Stein raised about $1.9 million. Both have solid platforms and strong ideas that might benefit all Americans, but Americans don't hear them. Neither candidate has the financial income the Democratic and Republican candidates have; they don't receive the funds from numerous lobbyists; they don't get the attention of the mainstream media. Just as important, Congress, made up of Democrats and Republicans, with Bernie Sanders as the only independent, are reluctant to pass campaign finance reform.
And that is why a third party candidacy can't survive at this time.
[Dr. Brasch's latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]