- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I know, we all hate big money in politics. But the fact of the matter is that it’s there — and in order to compete, it’s best to utilize it.

Donald Trump has been slow to mobilize his team behind one super PAC, giving donors no clear direction on where to send their big-money checks. As Mr. Trump has been gaining ground in the latest swing state polls — including coming within the margin of error in Colorado — his team could utilize this momentum to cash in.

Yet confusion reigns. Mr. Trump has at least four different PACs all of which look like they’re competing against each other for the campaign’s official blessing and, in the process, are raising lackluster sums of money compared to Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Trump shunned super PACs during the primary, attacking them for buying politicians’ interest. However, since winning the nomination, Mr. Trump has somewhat changed his tune, allowing these super PACs to raise money for him, but not giving one his unequivocal support. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton is raising millions from her super PAC, outspending Mr. Trump for airtime and in building swing-state infrastructure — two key elements that could tip a tight race come November.

Mrs. Clinton’s super PAC, Priorities USA, raised $23 million in August, with five billionaire donors contributing half of it: Slim-Fast founder S. Daniel Abraham and Newsweb chairman Fred Eychaner ($3 million each), billionaire financier George Soros ($2.5 million), investor Donald Sussman and Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective (both with $2 million).

Between her super PAC, campaign and joint fundraising venture with the Democratic National Committee, Mrs. Clinton raised $112 million in August, compared to Mr. Trump’s combined $70 million.

To be clear: Mr. Trump’s campaign is winning among small donors, with more than half of his contributions coming from those pledging $200 or less (a large indicator of voter enthusiasm and continued ability to raise), but he’s missing out when it comes to large billionaire donors — and it’s not because they don’t want to give. It’s just they don’t know where to give.

The influential Mercer family is spearheading a super PAC backing Mr. Trump called Make America Number 1, but it’s been lagging in its fundraising. Although the family gave the PAC $2 million in July, it didn’t give a penny in August, and received $1 million from Cherna Moskowitz, a Miami philanthropist, and $50,000 from Erik Prince, who founded the defense contractor Blackwater.

Great America PAC, another pro-Trump organization, raised only $3.6 million in August. The Trump campaign signaled this may the their blessed organization by sending Eric Trump to one of its events this month, but that messaging hasn’t been clear, partly because Donald Trump Jr. was deployed to a rival super PAC the same month. Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican operative, works as its top strategist.

The group is reportedly planning television ads with additional cash, including at least one that incorporated Mrs. Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” remark. In August, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spent $33 million in media-buying, compared to Mr. Trump’s $5.3 million.

Rebuilding America Now also seems to be a Trump favorite super PAC. Donald Trump Jr. attended one of its New York City fundraisers this week, and it seems to be doing the best in money raising (it won’t disclose its financials until next month).

The group is chaired by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and has spent the most of all of Mr. Trump’s super PACs, investing $13 million in commercials, Politico reported. This month, the group plans on airing advertisements in swing state Pennsylvania. Yet, those efforts are dwarfed by Mrs. Clinton’s Priorities USA which has spent $71 million in swing-state spending.

The Committee to Restore America’s Greatness is yet another pro-Trump super PAC that is most famous for its billboard buys, which has re-imagined Mr. Trump as superman in New York City and Orlando.

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson told the Wall Street Journal this week he’s committed $5 million to a pro-Trump super PAC, but didn’t disclose what PAC he was going to give to or if he plans on launching his own with the Ricketts family. The Rickettses — which gained their billions from Omaha, Nebraska-based TD Ameritrade brokerage, also pledged $1 million to Mr. Trump this week, but didn’t signal how or where they would spend it.

It’s time for Mr. Trump to endorse one of his several PACs and get organized. Billionaire donors want to know their money is going to the right place, that it will be used effectively, and has been blessed by the candidate himself. It’s time for Mr. Trump to make those signals clear.

For now is the time to strike with big-money donors, and Mr. Trump has some time — and money — to make up for.

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