Tithing to Trump: Some WA residents donate to him every other day

Tithing to Trump: Some WA residents donate to him every other day
Tithing to Trump: Some WA residents donate to him every other day

There’s a school custodian in SeaTac who donated to Donald Trump 172 times last year. She sent Trump some money just about every other day.

There’s a retiree in Pullman who gave Trump’s fundraising operation small amounts between $4 and $44 so many times — 165 times — that by the end of 2023 it added up to nearly $4,000.

And there’s a self-employed handyman in Shoreline who started pushing the Trump donate button so hard beginning in July — sometimes giving 40 times in a month — that by year’s end he had sent $2,253.

Of all the unusual aspects of the Donald Trump phenomenon, the one I find the most perplexing is the zeal with which his supporters continue to send him money. Federal campaign finance reports, released this past week for the second half of 2023, show that they’re often working-class or retired folks who engage in what amounts to a near-daily Trump tithing, often in $5 or $10 increments.

In the past six months, the reports show, “small dollar Don” got more than 39,000 donations from Washington state residents. That’s more than triple the number of the incumbent Democratic president, Joe Biden. Trump raised $1.34 million in Washington — which pencils out to just $34 per donation.

Trump has wealthy donors too, but overall it’s a recasting of the stereotypical roles, where Republicans supposedly mined the fat cash and Democrats were the party of the people. Biden raised $4.9 million from Washingtonians in the second half of 2023 (from both his regular campaign kitty and his Biden Victory Fund joint fundraising PAC). His average donation here was $502 — 15 times higher than Trump’s. Most of Biden’s larger donations came from Seattle-area tech titans.

“This is not America!” headlined one of Trump’s daily fundraising appeals, this one from last week after a New York jury said he owed $83 million to an author he was found to have sexually abused.

“Another witch hunt trial rules against me,” he lamented. “They won’t stop until I’m completely erased from history.”

The pitch closed: “Remember, your support is the only thing standing between us and TOTAL TYRANNY!”

These appeals really work, even as they become more untethered from reality. Trump’s various PACs and committees raised nearly $200 million last year, with earlier estimates that 80% of it came from people giving less than $200 at an hour.

Fiscal support from the proletariat is great in politics; the last president to marshal it like Trump was Barack Obama. The problem is that huge amounts of Trump’s campaign accounts are being spent on legal fees (nearly 50 different law firms got paid), as well as ludicrous expenditures like an $18,000 per month retainer for Melania Trump’s clothing stylist.

As I’ve confessed before, I simply don’t get it. It’s one thing to vote for Trump. But I can’t grasp why anyone would send him money, given the track record. Remember when 45,000 Washingtonians helped him finance an “Election Defense Fund” that, it turned out, didn’t exist? That money was instead spent on Trump-affiliated companies, events and stays at his own hotels and the foundations of his aides and friends.

That these are $10, $20, $30 donations from working people and retirees is just sad.

One of the Trump donors is a man I’ve corresponded with, a retired bank employee from Seattle. (If you think this is just a phenomenon in the red parts of the state, think again — Trump got more than 1,300 donations from Seattleites in the second half of 2023.)

I called him and asked him: Did you see that Trump spent $55 million of his campaign money on lawyers, for both himself and his associates? Does that trouble you?

“Not at all, it doesn’t bother me,” he said. (I’m not naming him because he was concerned about blowback and he’s a small donor, having only given a few hundred bucks; however, all of these donations are public record.)

“I don’t know anything about how he’s actually using the money,” he continued. “I do know that everybody’s attacking him with whatever weapons they have. If he’s defending himself with my money, then that’s more than fine with me.”

But Trump keeps losing in court, I said. Do you start to wonder?

“He predicted he wouldn’t get a fair trial, and he didn’t,” he said. “They get maligned for everything they do. There are millions of us out here who are ready to step up and do whatever we can to assist.”

An analysis published Friday by the news site Politico outlined how the fundraising works. It found that Trump’s biggest money spikes came not when he gave a speech or got an endorsement, but on the days he got indicted. Trump then channels the grievance for fundraising leverage with his “small donor army.”

“It’s not like I’m spending money I would otherwise spend on food,” the Seattle donor objected to me.

I sure hope that’s true of these other 39,000. The phenomenon is happening in your town, wherever you live. There’s a security guard in Lynnwood who incredibly donated to Trump 220 times last year. A retiree in Montesano who gave 208 times, totaling $6,420. An apple farmer in Mattawa who sent money 97 times.

Given how much of it is funneled into Trump’s lifestyle and lawyers who don’t seem to know what they’re doing (such as his civil attorney Alina Habba, whose firm raked in $4 million last year from these donor contributions), my sense is it’s plain we’ve long since departed the realm of politics.

It’s a mass confidence game. It’s to the point where it begs for an intervention, or some kind of deprogramming.

My Seattle donor acquaintance chose another term for it: democracy.

“There are many indications that Trump is the rightful president, today,” he pushed back. “If you look at it from that side, this is fighting to restore democracy.

“The main thing I can impart to you, and thank you for calling, is that no matter what, we intend to keep at it.”

Danny Westneath:
[email protected]; Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region’s news, people and politics.

The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Tithing Trump residents donate day


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