Donald Trump has defended his tens of thousands of dollars in donations to Democrats, while running in the Republican primary for president, by saying he’s a businessman and he was just donating to them to get them to give him government favors.
But were his donations really just pay-for-play? Were his donations in line with the courtesy cash other businessmen give politicians? Or were they more on scale with what megadonors who try to influence elections give?
To find out, Bombs and Dollars visited the Federal Election Commission’s information database (which includes everything from 1997 to 2016) and ran the numbers on Donald Trump–then compared them to an avowed Democrat and one of the biggest fundraisers in U.S. politics, investor George Soros.
What did we find out? Trump is on par–and even surpassing–Soros in terms of donating to many key Democrats.
For example, while Trump has given $7,400 to Sen. Harry Reid, who served as the Democrat’s leader since 2005 and the Senate Majority Leader from 2007-2015, while Soros has only donated $2,400 to Reid. Trump also gave $4,000 to the previous Democratic leader in Senate, Tom Daschle, also more than Soros.
Besides just giving over $70,000 to individual Democrats who voted for Obamacare and urged its passage, Trump also donated to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Between 2004-08, when the Democrats shifted control of Senate by nine seats and took control of the Senate, Trump gave $67,500 to the DSCC.
Some of Trump’s donations were instrumental in shifting the outcome of the vote on Obamacare, which every Democrat in Congress voted for and all but one Republican, Rep. Joe Cao, voted against. But even with 59 Democrat-caucusing Senators (including independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman), the Democrats still needed one Senator to turn the tide. They got that in Arlen Specter, who was elected as a Republican before changing parties in 2009. Trump gave $2,300 to Spector in 2007 and 08.
In total, here is how Trump’s spending on Democrats stacks up with Soro’s:
|Candidate||Trump’s donations||Soro’s donations|
This is more money than most ordinary businessmen give, even more than Democrat-supporting businessmen.
Take Warren Buffett, for example. Buffett, the billionaire investor and owner of Berkshire Hathaway, helped fundraise for Obama in 2007 and 2012. Besides that, he’s also a billionaire, so he would face the same pressures to donate as other businessmen that Trump claims to face. But how much of his personal money did he actually give Democrats?
Since 1997, he gave $4,700 to Harry Reid, $2,600 less than Donald Trump did. Buffett gave $7,000 to Clinton, $1,500 less than Trump, and Buffett gave $2,000 less to Dodd than Trump did. They did donate equally to some candidates: $4,000 each to Daschle.
Ken Langone is the CEO of Home Depot. He also lives in New York. True enough, he did give some money to his local politicians–$15,000 to New York Senator Chuck Schumer (but $0 to Clinton)–but he didn’t give a dime to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and little to out-of-state Democrats.
Compared to Trump’s over $32,700 donated to Democrats outside his home state, Langone only gave $5,000 to out-of-state Democrats.
In fact, even Warren Buffett didn’t see fit to give to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Haim Saban, a Democrat-supporting media executive who slept in the White House during Bill Clinton’s term, couldn’t keep up with Trump from 2004-08.