Pence pick sparks hope for Trump fundraising

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Mike Pence’s close ties to Charles and David Koch’s donor network won’t sway either the billionaires’ attitude or their money toward Donald Trump, a key aide to the network says.

But Republican fundraisers remain cautiously optimistic that as Trump’s vice presidential pick, the Indiana governor, who is deeply respected by GOP megadonors, can help the Trump campaign’s struggling finance operation.

{mosads}The Koch brothers aren’t budging on Trump; as much as they like and respect Pence they disapprove of the presumptive GOP nominee more.

Charles Koch told Fortune this week that voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump was like choosing between cancer and a heart attack.

When asked how Trump’s Pence selection will affect the network’s strategy, Koch network spokesman James Davis told The Hill, “Our efforts will remain focused on the Senate,” where the network has already laid down more than $30 million in ad buys in battleground states to save vulnerable Republican senators. 

But while he won’t move the Kochs, Pence will likely recruit other donors into Trump’s corner, top GOP fundraising sources say. 

“For fundraising absolutely it helps. He’s got great relationships. People will take his calls,” said Lisa Spies, a senior fundraiser for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign who in 2010 helped then-Congressman Pence expand his national fundraising network. 

“I think people will give because they like Mike Pence,” she added. “But they’re not going to give as much as they would’ve because they dislike Donald Trump.” 

Trump’s campaign is struggling to build a competitive fundraising operation and the candidate could use as much fundraising juice out of his VP pick as possible.

Trump hates asking fellow billionaires for money, and he spent his entire primary campaign telling the party’s donor class he neither wanted nor needed their cash. He portrayed the political donor class as corrupt; and a number of GOP donors have privately told The Hill they won’t be forgetting those slights now that Trump apparently wants their money. 

Trump now finds himself up against Clinton, who is outraising him and outspending him by factors unseen in the modern era.

Belatedly and begrudgingly, Trump is building some semblance of a fundraising operation, though fundraisers like Spies still laugh when asked what they think of “Trump’s finance operation.”

“What finance operation?” she says, pointing to the barebones outfit that mostly consists of people who are loyal to the party first and Trump a distant second. It’s a pale comparison to the operations built in previous cycles by GOP nominees like Romney and George W. Bush. 

Pence can only do so much to change that basic calculus.

One role will likely be as a fundraising surrogate, which is a typical role taken by VP candidates.

The Trump campaign is searching for credible people it can send to dinner parties and events around the country to prospect for cash. Pence fits that job description perfectly. 

“Having a vice presidential candidate that has his legislative experience and executive gubernatorial background is a big plus; certainly for fundraising it allows us to have a credible surrogate in addition to the family members of the candidate,” said Ronald Weiser, an influential GOP fundraiser who is a vice chair of Trump Victory, the joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. 

“It’s hard to move the candidate to 50 states,” Weiser said. “If you’re doing an event and the candidate’s not available for political or other fundraisers reasons, then you need a credible surrogate for that event.” 

Trump had his best fundraising month so far in June — his campaign said it raised more than $20 million, a vast improvement on its paltry $3.1 million take in May — but he’s still getting financially crushed by Clinton, who raised more than $200 million in the primaries and used that money to build a staff tens times the size of Trump’s. 

On the super-PAC side — the groups that can spend unlimited funds on candidates so long as they don’t coordinate with the candidate or his campaign — Trump is also getting crushed. 

Clinton’s allies set up her approved super-PAC, Priorities USA, early in the cycle, and it’s already hammering Trump with brutal attack ads.

The pro-Clinton group has already made advertising reservations exceeding $150 million in battleground states, according to spokesman Justin Barasky.

Trump, meanwhile, is relying on an assortment of super-PACs claiming to support him, but donors privately tell The Hill that they remain suspicious of many of these groups and unclear about which group Trump wants them to support. 

No vice presidential candidate can fix all these problems, but Pence’s selection is about the best Trump could hope for, and it’s already making his ticket more ideologically palatable to mainstream GOP donors.

Pence has the enthusiastic approval from the most admired figure in establishment Republican circles — House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) — and Pence’s selection will be a data point that party leaders like RNC chair Reince Priebus can use to convince skeptical donors that Trump is modulating his behavior for the general election. 

The fiscal conservative group Club for Growth, which spent millions trying to defeat Trump in the primaries, nonetheless praised Trump’s selection of Pence.

Further exemplifying a Pence Effect, the Club for Growth — which won’t spend to help Trump in the general election because it doesn’t engage in general elections — says Pence’s selection might tip some of the group’s donors in Trump’s direction, a spokesman said. 

“We think Pence would be a great VP, and his addition might make some of our members more inclined to consider the ticket,” said Doug Sachtleben, communications director of the Club for Growth. 

“[Pence] had a 95 lifetime score with the Club, so he’s been great on our issues. From an organizational perspective, our focus remains on House and Senate races. We haven’t been involved in presidential general elections before and don’t plan to this time around.” 

A conservative leader who is among the best connected in the country among Republican mega-donors told The Hill that Trump couldn’t have made a better choice than Pence.

But the problem for donors, he said, remains the man sitting above Pence on the ticket. 

“It helps some. … Unlike with Trump, there’s a significant degree of respect for Mike Pence’s policy accomplishments,” he said.

“It’s positive that it’s Mike Pence, but it doesn’t change the basic calculus of who Donald Trump is.”


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