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Five takeaways from the latest finance reports

Five takeaways from the latest finance reports
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Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE’s presidential campaign released its latest financial report, revealing an operation rushing to professionalize as Election Day nears.

Trump lags well behind Democratic rival Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Hillary Clinton tweets 'vote them out' after Senate GOP confirm Barrett CNN: Kayleigh McEnany praised Biden as 'man of the people' in 2015 MORE in fundraising — her campaign raised $60 million in August compared with the GOP nominee’s $42 million — but he’s aggressively expanding his operation and still has plenty of cash reserved for the final 50 days.

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The latest reports also shed light on how Republicans are positioned in their fight to hold on to control of the Senate.

Here are five takeaways from August’s filings with the Federal Election Commission:

 

Trump is finally spending serious cash

When it comes to campaigning, Trump is proud to be cheap. He boasted through the primaries that he was the value-for-money candidate, beating better-funded opponents like Jeb Bush. Trump says the same now about Clinton.

August’s fundraising reports, however, reveal Trump grasps the limits of frugality. In August, Trump’s campaign spent $30 million, nearly double his previous monthly record of $18 million, in July.

His spending still pales in comparison to Clinton’s. Her campaign spent $50 million in August, of which more than 60 percent went to various types of advertising,  but Trump too is investing more in the traditional areas of campaigning that he previously avoided.

Trump’s area of greatest investment in August, exceeding $11 million, was digital targeting and online fundraising. The GOP nominee is also getting more serious about polling, data analytics, advertising and staff size — up more than 50 percent, to more than 130 employees.

The fact remains, however, that if Trump wins on Nov. 8, it won’t be because he has a better organization than Clinton. The Democratic nominee maintains a payroll roughly six times the size of Trump’s and has made the early investments in ground staff and technology that Trump simply can’t catch up with between now and Election Day.

 

Clinton enjoys an unprecedented super PAC advantage 

Democrats once described super PACs, with their unlimited cash from corporations and billionaires, as the plague of modern politics.

For this cycle at least, Clinton should thank her lucky stars for super PACs.

She is reaping the benefits of blessing just one outside group: Priorities USA. And the people running it have exploited their close ties to Clinton World to outraise their Republican rivals by tens of millions of dollars.

Priorities USA raised $23.4 million in August and has already reserved more than $150 million in advertising, filling the airwaves in battleground states with brutal anti-Trump commercials.

Republican mega-donors, by contrast, have been reluctant to get behind their nominee, and even those who are willing to support Trump have been understandably confused about where to wire their cash.

Two of the larger pro-Trump super PACs, Great America PAC and Make America Number 1, raised a paltry $4.7 million combined in August. 

Several other Trump groups will release their figures next month, including a super PAC with $5 million reportedly pledged from casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, but it’s already too late to match the Clinton forces on the airwaves. 

 

Senate Republicans are flush, thanks to one casino billionaire

Adelson, a Las Vegas mega-donor who spent about $100 million on Republicans in 2012, had been relatively quiet so far this cycle.

Until August.

Ever since Adelson endorsed Trump on May 13 in a Washington Post op-ed, political watchers have been looking for the rumored $100 million he was going to throw into a super PAC backing Trump.

In the meantime, a hoard of ambitious GOP consultants have tried to persuade Adelson to fund their groups. But the billionaire’s ultimate decision appears to be to send most of his money toward helping Republicans hang on to their Senate majority.

It seems Adelson’s $100 million isn’t going to arrive — the casino owner is reportedly spending $5 million on Trump — but he’s still spending a fortune to help down-ballot Republicans.

In August, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave $20 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC linked to Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote Democrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) that is working to preserve and expand the chamber’s GOP majority.

Adelson gave a further $1.5 million to an associated group, Granite State Solutions, that has launched a $15 million ad campaign to help Republican Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length MORE hold her New Hampshire seat.

Thanks to Adelson’s largesse, the Senate Leadership Fund nearly tripled the August fundraising of its equivalent super PAC on the Democratic side.

 

Clinton is cleaning up on Wall Street

Spurred on by Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAll fracked up: Biden's Keystone State breakdown What do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE (D-Mass.) on her left, Clinton has had some tough public words for her constituents on Wall Street. But behind the scenes, they still love her.

Priorities USA has been taking huge amounts of cash from New York hedge fund moguls George Soros and Donald Sussman.

Soros and Sussman have each given at least $10.5 million to the super PAC after donations of $2.5 million and $2 million, respectively, in August.

Clinton has long been the favored presidential candidate of Wall Street. Citing data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, The Wall Street Journal reported in July that “seven financial firms alone have generated $47.6 million for groups working on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf.”

The comparable amount raised for Trump at that time was $19,000. And though his haul from the financial industry has increased substantially by now, it still pales in comparison to Clinton’s.

 

Trump is doing well with small-dollar donors

One of the most telling sections of a campaign’s Federal Election Commission report is what’s called “unitemized” contributions. The money totaled there comes from people who’ve given less than $200 to the campaign. They are the so-called small-dollar donors who fueled Sanders’s extraordinary grassroots run for the Democratic nomination.

Usually, the Democratic presidential candidate does far better than the Republican when it comes to the proportion of donations coming from small-dollar donors. 

It’s typically not even close, but that’s not the case this year. Trump, an unfiltered populist, raised more money from small-dollar donors than Clinton did in August, both in terms of the amount given and as a percentage of his total fundraising.

Of the $18.3 million Trump’s campaign received from individual contributors in August, about 65 percent came from small-dollar donors. A further $2 million came from Trump himself, and $20 million came from party transfers.

Of the $27.1 million Clinton raised, only $8.5 million, or 31 percent, came from small-dollar donors. The Democrat spent most of her summer hauling in large checks at exclusive fundraisers up and down the East and West coasts.