The Hill, “Few Lobbyists Coming Around to Trump,” August 3, 2016
By Megan R. Wilson
Republican nominee Donald Trump’s unconventional presidential campaign is attracting only a smattering of support from lobbyists on K Street.
Sixteen lobbyists have contributed almost $31,000 to support Trump through his campaign account, two joint fundraising committees with the Republican National Committee (RNC) and at the campaign store, federal records show.
Almost of all the lobbyist donations to the Republican nominee occurred in May and June, when Trump’s campaign and the RNC officially joined forces.
Among the lobbyists who have given to Trump are prominent names like former Republican Reps. Bob Livingston (La.), of the Livingston Group, and The Normandy Group’s Henry Bonilla (Texas). Both men sat on the powerful Appropriations Committee in Congress.
Livingston gave $5,400 to Trump’s campaign in June, the maximum amount allowed, while Bonilla contributed $2,700 to Trump Victory Fund, the joint fundraising committee.
Trump’s largest lobbying donor so far is David Tamasi, who is finance chairman of the Trump Victory Fund and a senior vice president at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications.
He donated a total of $10,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund, which has higher contribution limits because it is connected to a party committee able to collect six-figure checks.
Tamasi, who also donated money to the presidential campaigns of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, said it was always his plan to support the GOP nominee and the Republican Party.
Trump has raised little from lobbyists and others in Washington, especially in comparison with the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
More than 700 lobbyists and corporate or lobbying firm PACs contributed more than $1.87 million to Romney’s White House run through the first half of 2012, according to an analysis of federal records by the Huffington Post.
Tamasi said Trump is lagging in Washington fundraising not only because he doesn’t have an established political network, but also because he hasn’t held a fundraiser in the city.
“There’s a little bit of, if you build it, they will come,” Tamasi said, adding that the Republican nominee would likely do well if he held a Washington fundraiser. He says he plans to begin bundling money for Trump now that the fundraising framework is coming into place.
Lance Leggitt, the chair of the federal health policy practice at Baker Donelson and former official in the George W. Bush administration, donated $1,000 to Trump in May.
Richard Hohlt, a former advisor to the presidential run of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), put $2,700 into Trump’s coffers. J Allen Martin, who served as Livingston’s top staffer on Capitol Hill and now works at his lobby firm, also gave $1,000.
Longtime lobbyist Victor Schwartz, who chairs the public policy practice of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, has donated a total of $1,100 so far to Trump.
“I’ve been working [in Washington] for 40 years, and I’ve learned something.”
“You never know who’s going to win and that it sometimes good to make some kind of contribution,” he said. “Through the 40 years that I’ve done that, there’s no real pattern to it.”
Schwartz donated to Romney’s run in 2012, Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) White House bid in 2008, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s Democratic presidential campaign and both Bush and Ralph Nader during the 2004 presidential race.
Schwartz said he would visit the Clinton White House about five times per year, but has been disappointed to find himself unable to get a meeting at the Obama White House.
“All I want, if someone wins, I want to be able to talk with somebody. Whoever wins,” he said, adding that he may make a contribution to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Unlike Trump, Clinton has raked in money from lobbyists, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from the industry this cycle.
“Secretary Clinton is a much more known quaintly in Washington — she has a 30 year career of establishing relationships in Washington,” Tamasi said.
The raft of donations to Clinton feed into Trump’s message that he is taking on the political establishment and that he is not beholden to “special interests” because of his personal worth.
“Every one of those lobbyists that gives money, they expect something for it. And that’s a bad thing,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last July.
“I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m not running with anybody’s money. I’m spending my own money. But the lobbyists have — they totally control these politicians.”
The New York businessman has raised $35 million in individual contributions for his campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission, and received $2.2 million in transfers from the Trump Victory Fund.
Additionally, Trump has given his campaign $47.5 million in loans, which he officially forgave in last month’s FEC filings.
Tamasi says Trump’s rhetoric about lobbyists doesn’t bother him.
“He will never be the Washington candidate, he will never be the K Street candidate — and I think that’s a good thing,” Tamasi said. “I don’t think the K Street constituency is one that Trump is concerned about from an electoral standpoint, but also a political perspective.”
Gaylord Hughey, a lawyer and lobbyist in Tyler, Texas, that occasionally lobbies the federal government, donated $1,000 to the Trump Victory Fund.
He serves as the co-chair of Trump’s fundraising efforts in Texas and said that Republican contributors of all kinds are warming to the GOP nominee.
“Traditional donors are coming along,” he said, rejecting media reports that large donors are keeping their distance from Trump. “That’s not what my sense is down on the ground floor.
“The traditional donors are slow to the draw on this thing, but they’re coming to the table.”
“It’s a populist movement,” Hughey added of the Trump campaign. “There’s a dynamic there that I didn’t anticipate, and I think people are going to be really surprised” at how well he does.
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