President Donald Trump built his 2016 campaign on the promise to his supporters that he would not be beholden to special interests because he was "self-funding my own campaign." And while Trump indeed broke small donation records, he is approaching 2020 with a different tack, Politico reports.
Take, for example, Trump's about-face on hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who supported Marco Rubio and an anti-Trump PAC during the Republican primary. At the time, Trump slammed Singer as having a "lotta controversy." After winning the election, Singer reportedly donated $5,000 to Trump's transition team and $1 million to his inaugural committee — then asked Trump for a meeting, and got it.
And "Singer … is just one of many GOP donors who have been the subject of entreaties from Trump and his closest confidants," Politico writes, "and the charm offensive appears to be paying dividends."
Many of Trump's Cabinet members were also top donors, and other mega-donors, including those who initially backed his rivals, are also finding themselves in the position to accept high offices. That includes Todd Ricketts, for deputy commerce secretary, and Trump's expected ambassador to Canada, Kelly Knight Craft. "Do you think if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family has not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?" Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) even accused Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, at her conformation hearing in January.
"Drain the swamp? He's filing the swamp," said Clinton family fundraiser and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. "[Trump] ran on something else. The people whom he attacked are the same people he's put in charge of the government. That is hypocritical. You can call it whatever you want. But don't think for one second people aren't paying attention."
But others see Trump's move as a sly one. A person who works with major Republican donors explained to Politico: "Trump has been very methodical and clever. The process began within days of the election." Read more about Trump's financial preparations for the next election here.