Consider the following:
- Donald Trump has two people, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon, running his presidential campaign who have never run a presidential campaign. Bannon has never worked on a campaign. Of any type.
- Bannon is the former chief executive of a propaganda outlet that embraced the so-called alt-right (indistinguishable from white supremacists) and attacked a critic in anti-Semitic terms.
- Paul Manafort is still on the payroll. The Times reports a Ukrainian prosecutor alleges Manafort was instrumental in staging “a series of anti-NATO, anti-Kiev protests in Crimea led by Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions — now designated a criminal organization. The protests forced planned NATO exercises there to be cancelled.”
All of this would have been in conflict with U.S. foreign policy, which supports a free and independent Ukraine.
- The Associated Press adds: “Donald Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.” This raises a question of legality. (“Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.”)
- Trump is campaigning in blue states such as Connecticut, where he has no hope of winning. He has not used funds already raised to set up anything resembling a presidential-level ground game.
How does the Republican National Committee justify continued funding of this dumpster fire? John Weaver, a longtime GOP campaign consultant and former chief strategist for Gov. John Kasich, told me the RNC should have cut off Trump long ago. “I’ve been calling for this for weeks,” says Weaver. “Not only should funding to the campaign stop for practical political reasons — Trump is putting the Senate and House in play and defining the conservative movement and the Republican Party in ways which will take generations to recover — but morally should hard-earned contributions from rank-and-file Republicans end up in the pockets or dacha of Putin sympathizers or worse?”
More than 120 Republicans even before the latest development in a letter called for the RNC to cut the purse ties. “Given the catastrophic impact that Donald Trump’s losing presidential campaign will have on down-ballot Senate and House races, we urge you to immediately suspend all discretionary RNC support for Trump and focus the entirety of the RNC’s available resources on preserving the GOP’s congressional majorities,” the letter said.
Now that Trump has put unprepared people at the top of his campaign and allegations of illegality swirl around Manafort, GOP calls to cut off Trump will increase. “Of course they should cut funding,” says former Mitt Romney adviser Stuart Stevens. “The Breitbart connection is toxic. I’d say they were as bad as Russians and have lower standards. It’s a scam. Trust me, a lot of money is falling off the truck.”
The RNC’s Sean Spicer refused to respond to questions on the topic. On CNN, Spicer kept up a brave face in defense of Bannon. “He understands the new world that we live in — how to communicate the message effectively, and how to tap into a lot of people who frankly feel the government doesn’t understand the frustration they have.” Whatever.
At some point, the donors will just stop giving — or demand their money back.
UPDATE: An experience presidential campaign operative is at wit’s end. “How much longer is the RNC going to fund deck chairs on the Titanic? Republicans have several competitive congressional races with candidates who are actually doing what it takes to win and are much more deserving of help,” says. “If Trump is going to waste his money hiring Russian pawns, neo-nationalists, and sexual harassers, the RNC shouldn’t waste another dime on him. Focus on keeping Republican majorities in the House and Senate to fight Hillary’s left-wing agenda.”