Donald Trump gets a super PAC, but does he need it?
Donald Trump's presidential campaign has attracted two super PACs so far, despite his assertion that he's paying for his campaign out of his own pocket.
Despite his unambiguous assertions that he is using his own money for his campaign because, as he says, "I'm really rich," Donald Trump, who has been soaring in polls, now has the unofficial badge of modern candidates: his very own super PAC.
The “Make America Great Again” super PAC, which echoes Mr. Trump's motto, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on June 30.
"Make America Great Again will be active in the presidential race and we like the issues that Trump is focusing on," the super PAC told Bloomberg News. "They are issues that we will seek to educate voters on so they can make the best decision at the ballot box."
Trump's campaign appeared equivocal, if not pleased, by the news.
"Given Mr. Trump's top-tier status in recent polls, it is not surprising that someone has put together a super-PAC to support Donald J. Trump for president," said Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. "We hope that they invite us to attend some of their events."
In fact, this isn't the first super PAC that appears to be supporting the real estate mogul-turned reality TV star-turned politician.
That distinction goes to Citizens for Restoring USA, which West Palm Beach, Florida, businessman Robert Kiger, a Trump supporter, filed back in April.
What does it mean for Trump?
Since the beginning of his campaign, Trump has insisted that he doesn't need to raise funds and will be beholden to no one. "I'm using my own money," he said in his announcement speech. “I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.” Trump has also criticized his competitors for being influenced by donors.
In other words, he probably didn't put anyone up to it.
The super PACs also give Trump's campaign a sense of authenticity – to the surprise of most political observers, many of whom haven't taken it seriously. After all, not only does Trump now have not one, but two super PACs, he has also created an exploratory committee, hired staff in key early states, and filed with the FEC.
But the newest super PAC, "Make America Great Again," is unusual, and its motives aren't yet entirely clear.
While election law prohibits coordination between candidates and super PACs, most have some connection, as Bloomberg News points out. Jeb Bush's super PAC, Right to Rise, is headed by a former aide; so is Hillary Clinton's Priorities USA.
"Absent a clear indication from the candidate, the possibility exists that Trump has become the victim of a new form of political identity theft," reports Bloomberg. "The super-PAC era has given rise to 'Scam PACs,' groups that raise money off of a candidate's name or slogan, but exist mainly to draw a salary for their leaders, delivering little or nothing to the candidates they suggest they're raising money for."
That's one of several reasons Trump is not likely to rely on any super PACs. Self-financing gives him key advantages over his, well, poorer competitors.
For starters, the self-professed billionaire can control exactly what he wants to spend money on, and how much.
What's more, when it comes to TV advertising, federal communications law gives political campaigns special privileges over others jockeying for air time, including super PACs.
"So a Trump television advertisement can bump an ad from, for example, Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC on the eve of the New Hampshire primary," suggests the UK's Guardian.
And, ironically, Trump will probably pay less, too.
"Political campaigns are entitled to the 'lowest unit rate' in the 45 days before a primary election, which means they get the lowest rate charged to any advertiser for any spot," the British paper explains. "In contrast, super PACs don’t enjoy any of those advantages and stations can make them pay a premium, particularly as demand soars for advertising time in the runup to the first primary contests."
Trump's super PACs may need him – but he doesn't need them.