Donors skeptical of supporting Donald Trump are beginning to open their wallets at the behest of Mike Pence. But it’s still not tilting the money advantage in Trump’s direction: Tim Kaine has added far more money to Hillary Clinton’s coffers than Pence has to those of his running mate.
Campaign officials credit Pence with helping bring in about $10 million for the Trump Victory Fund, a joint account with the RNC that allows individual donations of up to $449,400, through mid-September. That doesn’t include huge checks written by some of the Pence-courted donors to super PACs, the unquantifiable dollars that might have stayed out of the race if not for Pence’s presence on the ticket, or the $6 million that Trump and Pence raised together on Thursday night at a joint fundraising dinner in New York, aides said.
The bad news for the GOP ticket: Kaine has brought in at least $27 million and likely much more, according to a POLITICO analysis, suggesting that while Pence is helping, he’s doing little to make up for the Democratic ticket’s overall edge.
Whereas Kaine, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, is a force multiplier for the Clinton fundraising machine, Pence has been working to assuage major donors offended by Trump, assuring some of them that the GOP nominee is a different person in private than his bombastic stage presence might suggest.
Pence has helped win over major donors including the Ricketts and Deason families, two of the GOP’s top sources of mega-donor cash. Pence started from a major disadvantage: Trump threatened the Ricketts family — owners of the Chicago Cubs — in February, tweeting that because of their support for his primary-election opponents “they better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”
Pence helped seal the deal just days after being selected as Trump’s vice-presidential nominee, huddling with Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, his brother Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and advisers to the family in Cleveland. It was a pivotal moment for Trump’s finances: Many reliable Republican donors had been signaling they would stay on the sidelines with Trump as the nominee.
Todd Ricketts is now helping to fundraise for a pair of pro-Trump super PACs, helping to raise $30 million so far.
“While the Ricketts were always planning on supporting the Republican nominee for president, they were certainly excited that Donald Trump picked Gov. Mike Pence, because they hold him in very high regard,” said Brian Baker, a political adviser to the family.
Pence’s deep ties to the world of conservative finance, cultivated over years in Congress and as a conservative governor, have helped open doors. But his fundraising base is in Indiana, while Kaine is a national fundraising juggernaut after developing wide-ranging relationships with party honchos and donors in 2010 while serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
That was a terrible year for Democrats, but it wasn’t because of a lack of money: The DNC outraised the Republican National Committee by $30 million, the only midterm election this century where the DNC came out on top. By comparison, in the two previous midterm elections, the DNC was outraised by $112 million in 2006 and by $26 million in 2014.
After President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton herself, Kaine is positioning himself as the party’s best fundraiser.
“Donors and activists are drawn to him,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “People are very eager to tell me that they’re friends with Tim Kaine.”
Demonstrating their importance on the presidential race’s financial footprint, Pence and Kaine’s fundraising efforts frequently take them off the beaten path of swing states to places their tickets have no chance of winning. Kaine has made swings to deep red territory repeatedly: Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Idaho and Wyoming. Pence did a solo fundraising swing in California and has worked the New York City and Washington donor crowds as well.
Pence has also been able to cultivate his Indiana donor network. At a fundraiser at the swanky, glass-enclosed JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis in early September, Pence reportedly brought in north of $1 million.
But the big money for Kaine has come gushing in much faster in places like New York, California and the District of Columbia. At one event in New York in September, Kaine sat down with five people. He left with as much as $2.5 million. And that came after three other New York fundraising events on the same day, two of which netted a minimum $500,000 each.
POLITICO’s analysis of Kaine’s fundraising is conservative, using only the minimum number of donors and ranges of donations at each event. While Pence’s aides helped estimate his $10 million fundraising haul, they do not send out background reports to the media after each event disclosing fundraising work. Clinton and Kaine do, but donations are presented in wide ranges that make it impossible to determine exactly how much Kaine hauled in. Clinton’s and Kaine’s staffs declined to comment on this story, but it’s likely that Kaine has raised tens of millions more than $27 million.
Kaine isn’t just concentrating on bagging heavy hitters in the 82 events that the Clinton campaign has disclosed that he attended. At a gay club in D.C., the minimum contribution was $45; the same donation would have gotten you into campaign events at the Zynga headquarters in San Francisco or the Hotel Van Zandt in Austin.
In contrast, two of Kaine’s last finance events in the New York area ahead of his debate prep in Raleigh, North Carolina, required a minimum donation of $25,000 to get in the door.
While Kaine stepped into an already elaborate Clinton money machine, Pence has been tasked with winning over well-heeled GOP donors who had been skeptical of throwing their money behind Trump.
The data-processing billionaire Deason family of Texas, which supported Rick Perry and then Ted Cruz in the primaries, has begun to put its financial muscle behind Trump. Here again, Pence’s fingerprints appear: Doug Deason and his father, Darwin, hosted a fundraiser for Pence’s gubernatorial run in late May, when the family was on the fence about Trump. Doug Deason explained they would always vote for the Republican nominee — but donating money to help elect Trump wasn’t guaranteed.
“A lot of attributes Trump doesn’t have, Pence has,” Deason added, including a long track record of consistently conservative positions and a commitment to working with the Heritage Foundation to help select potential nominees for the Supreme Court and fill cabinet positions.
Between Doug, Darwin and Darwin’s wife, Katerina, they’ve given $1 million to the Trump Victory Fund and helped raise an additional $3 million to $4 million, Doug Deason said.
Pence’s pitch to potential donors includes a focus on tax cuts, said Bob Grand, Pence’s finance chairman, a relief to many big donors who’ve expressed concern about Trump’s big spending plans. And he’s willing to commit to many hours of calling donors, which helps combat Trump’s own distaste for fundraising.
Whereas Pence helps translate Trump’s swaggering style into consumable policy positions for donors, Kaine is more of a back-slapping, aw-shucks pol working the donor dinner circuit. Both publicly and privately, Kaine listens and nods during Q&A time, hands on hips as he prepares his response. He’ll go for hours in that setting if left to his own devices — aides have to pull him away to keep him moving.
At an event with Sen. Ben Cardin in Maryland in September, Kaine’s aides were trying to conclude the event, but he told the room: “It’s my last event of the day; I’m going here or home. Don’t worry about it.”
“After they pulled him off, he stayed and answered questions in a big group for about another hour,” Cardin said.
At Tuesday night’s vice-presidential debate, Pence and Kaine will be pitching their nominees to a much wider audience. Their debate performances could help motivate the small donors that help power the campaigns and help lessen the need for aggressive donor courting over the final month of the campaign.
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