Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE has spent the better part of his career successfully marketing himself and his products.  The last twelve months have shown that his marketing formula works in politics as well… but only to a point. Beyond the rhetoric, the attention to detail and programming operations that go into assembling the financial infrastructure to compete in a billion-dollar presidential campaign is more difficult than simply sales and promotion. Twenty years spent working alongside the fundraising and compliance arms of national party committees and presidential candidates have led me to identify three key priorities that Trump must tackle in order to begin the process of establishing confidence with traditional Republican party donors and activists.

First, Trump should contribute (rather than loan) money to his own campaign. Trump has currently loaned his campaign $36 million of his own money under a legal structure that allows him to use donor money to repay himself. Furthermore, a significant amount of this loan has gone to pay for rent and services from Trump-owned companies. This creates a threshold problem for potential large donors. As a gesture of good faith to the people that his team will now be soliciting for funds, he should promptly file an FEC report indicating that his personal loans to date have been forgiven.  This action would transform the loans into contributions, thereby taking uncertainty off the table and letting future donors know that their money will go toward a campaign to defeat Hillary -- not lining the billionaire’s pockets.

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Second, Trump Victory should prioritize assistance to the Republican National Committee.  Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhat are Democrats going to do once Donald Trump leaves office? Trump to hold campaign rally in Florida later this month Krystal Ball accuses Democrats of having 'zero moral authority' amid impeachment inquiry MORE already has a joint fundraising committee (JFC) with the DNC and Democratic state parties, and at this point in 2012, Romney’s JFC was well on its way to raising close to $500 million.  Traditionally, the first funds placed into a JFC are legally structured to go to the presidential campaign committee, then to the national party committee, and then to select state party committees. Donald Trump’s current friction with the Republican donor class calls for the process to be implemented in modified order. The first available money should be allocated to the RNC to benefit their voter registration, targeting and get out the vote efforts in battleground states –resources that will benefit candidates up and down the ballot, including Mr. Trump himself. After the RNC receives the initial maximum donation, the Trump campaign would receive their share of the resources. State parties in presidential swing states that possess targeted U.S. Senate races (Ohio, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Colorado) would receive the final round of funding. This prioritization would reassure major donors that the Trump Victory fundraising efforts are being spent to assist the Republican Party, and protect the Senate majority as a hedge against an uncertain presidential campaign.  

Finally, Trump should endorse Curly’s Plan for direct democracy.  Curly Haugland, a member of the RNC’s Standing Rules Committee, has advocated that there is no connection between state primaries and the national convention, and that delegates are free to vote for whomever they want.  While Mr. Haugland’s view is not consistent with the current Rules, as the presumptive nominee Mr. Trump will have controlling influence over the 112-member Convention Rules Committee. Trump’s campaign should work with their supporters to adopt a package of rules for this summer’s convention that release delegates from being bound by the results of their states’ primaries or caucuses. While Trump may initially worry about the risk of allowing delegates to vote their conscience (and his lawyers will likely smell a trap in any rules change) the reality is that he will certainly win overwhelmingly on the first ballot in a free election. That electric moment in Cleveland would ratify him as the undisputed choice of Republican delegates.

Each of these suggestions carries risk, but that reality encapsulates Trump’s campaign style from the very beginning – high-risk, but also potentially high reward. It’s time for Trump to transition from bold rhetoric to bold action to engage all parts of the Republican coalition. That’s the best manner in which he can engage the Republican donor class, and set himself on a path to maximize his viability for the general election.


Charlie Spies served as election law counsel for the Republican National Committee, CFO and counsel for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. Spies is the leader of Clark Hill PLC’s national Political Law practice.