Donald Trump's Campaign Contributions

Posted by Mischa Fisher in Current Events   
Wed 04 November 2015

Donald Trump recently passed the 100 day mark as the Republican front runner for the Presidential nomination, which means I was wrong (as many friends have reminded me) about him being a short term fad.

To scratch a curious itch, I decided to pull The Donald's campaign contributions from the FEC's personal disclosure database; that is, where has the Donald donated his money over the years. Since I was wrong about how long he'd remain at the front of the Republican primary field, I thought I'd see if I was also wrong in my suspicion that his donations were skewed toward whichever party was more popular at any given moment over the last 20 years. To the data!

Sum of all Donations, by Party

This is the first breakdown of total contributions over the last 20 or so years, by donations to Republicans, Democrats, and himself. Unfortunately, it has no context of time since I suspected his donation volume had increased substantially in the most recent year.

Sum of All Donations by Party, per year

This breaks down the total value of all his donations by party, per year. While it shows the recent uptick in spending, it suffers from a form of political inflation too. Donation values, for normative and legal reasons, have increased substantially across the board in the few recent cycles. So, to correct for that, I also looked at the total number of donations made...

Total Number of Donations by Party, per year

This better captures how far and wide The Donald has spread his political largesse over the past 20 years by looking at the total number of donations made to each party (and to himself).

Total Number of Donations by Party, per Election Cycle

Finally, to remove the cyclical nature of donations, I clumped the years together into election cycles, since, off-year donations tend to be lower than on-year donations.

This to me is the clearest story about his donations. There is clearly a shift in the nature of his partisan giving; and that shift comes pretty close to when President Obama's popularity started to decline. And the spike in donations to Democrats came pretty much at the same time as the big drop in President Bush's popularity.

One could interpret these results in two different ways; first, Donald Trump is an opportunist who simply changed his giving to reflect a change in where he viewed an opportunity to run (specifically, look at the big change between the 2006 election cycle and the current one). Alternatively, one could also think he's a dedicated partisan who stopped his political giving because he grew sick of holding the middle ground. I think that second scenario is unlikely, but, then again I've been wrong before.