Donald Trump has made it clear: He’s very rich. He doesn’t need – or want – his supporters’ money.
But that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from all 50 states from donating to the Republican’s presidential campaign.
From June 1 to Sept. 30, the last date for which Federal Election Commission records were available, Trump received slightly more than $3.9 million in donations – even while he was insisting he would pay for his campaign out of his own pocket.
“I wanted to make a statement that I was with him,” says donor Beth Chapman, in a remark echoed by other Trump backers. “He doesn’t need our money, but it showed my support.”
Chapman, who was the co-star of the reality television show “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” gave $2,700 – the legal limit for the primary.
The chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a nonprofit dedicated to tracking down Nazi war criminals and fighting anti-Semitism, also made a big donation: $2,700 for the primary and another $2,700 that Trump can spend only if he wins the GOP nomination.
A New York sanitation worker gave $250. A man in rural Kentucky threw in $10.
In all, Trump received slightly more than $1 million from 1,800 donors who gave more than $200 apiece – the threshold for reporting their names and other details on federal records. He got an additional $2.8 million from donors who gave less than $200. Small donors’ names don’t have to be reported, though Trump sometimes did anyway.
Overall, Trump’s donors described themselves as retirees (605 of them combined to give $261,000); business owners, presidents or CEOs (340 donors, $184,000); physicians (83, $39,000); and lawyers (63, $24,500).
Others included airline pilots and personnel of police departments in Chicago; Baltimore; Freetown, Massachusetts; and Naperville, Illinois. There’s also a sailor apparently stationed in Spain, a Border Patrol agent, a deep-sea diver, a Food and Drug Administration chemist and a bovine podiatrist in Idaho.
In June, when he announced his campaign, Trump declared: “I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.” More recently, he has suggested that he would accept donations, “but it has to be no strings attached,” as he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Trump’s first check, for $2,700, came June 1, before he was even a candidate. The donor was a New York insurance broker who boasts that The Trump Organization is among her biggest clients.
Trump’s largest donation – for $86,937, or 16 times the legal limit for the primary and general election – came Aug. 28, shortly after the candidate publicly tangled with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos over Trump’s plans to build a border fence and deport all immigrants living in the country illegally.
The donor, a wealthy auto dealer in Boston, had hosted a $100-per-person campaign event for Trump. A month later, Trump refunded all but $2,700 of the money, records show.
Trump’s most frequent donor is a Houston-area lawyer who donated 14 times, for a total of $2,400.
The biggest haul came July 31, when 130 donors combined to give Trump $61,000. At the time, Trump had begun calling for the mass deportation of some 11 million people living in the U.S. without authorization.
Here are details on some donors of note:
The bounty hunter
On television, Beth Chapman and her husband, Duane “Dog” Chapman, brought bail jumpers to justice, often at gunpoint.
Bail bondsmen have to be tough, Beth Chapman says. That’s the quality that drew her to Trump. She made her online donation of $2,700 in September.
The president “has to be someone who is tough as nails, that other countries will take seriously,” she says.
Chapman, who lives near Honolulu, worries about prison reform. Misguided activists claim that prisons are full of inmates who don’t belong there, she says, but that’s just not so.
“Far too many people go with the thinking that, you know, people are in jail because they’re poor or because they don’t have money,” she says. “The hard truth is people are in jail because they broke the law.”
Trump “is just not buying the bleeding-heart reform,” she says, and he’s that way on other issues, too.
“He wants to take action – we have no one who wants to take action,” she says. “There is nobody willing to drop the hammer, and he will.”
The Nazi hunter
Larry Mizel, chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, made his $5,400 donation to Trump in September. Mizel’s wife also gave $5,400.
Mizel is a Denver homebuilder who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Republican candidates and causes: $180,000 for Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, $100,000 for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s failed quest for the 2016 nomination.
Mizel is a co-founder of the Wiesenthal Center. He’s also on the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby.
In December, Wiesenthal Center officials criticized Trump after the candidate proposed closing U.S. borders to Muslims out of terrorism concerns. “Such a policy would only serve to strengthen ISIS,” they said.
Mizel and the center didn’t respond to requests for comment.
From Aug. 8 until Sept. 17, Eric Yollick, a lawyer who is running for judge in Montgomery County, Texas, gave 14 donations to Trump, records show. The smallest was $100 and the biggest was $400. On Sept. 15, Yollick made two donations to Trump. The next day, he did it again. In all, he donated $2,400.
Yollick once served on a hospital district board. His campaign for judge seems inspired by Trump, the Houston Chronicle wrote. Yollick’s campaign slogan is “Make Our Courthouse Great Again,” and deporting “illegal aliens” is a talking point.
“Eric fought illegal immigration as a Hospital District board member and there’s every reason why he’ll do the same as your District Judge,” his campaign website says.
Recently, the Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition endorsed Yollick. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The Spazmatics’ producer
In 2009, funk keyboardist Roger Sause played a free concert celebrating President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
This time, Sause is all in for Trump. In August, he donated $1,000.
Sause, of Los Angeles, works as producer for The Spazmatics, a tribute band that spoofs ’80s new wave music. He says his switch from performing to the business side of the entertainment industry helped make him more conservative.
“If you’re the one who has to deal with the bounced checks, it changes how you look at things,” he says.
Sause worries about a sour economy. Trump will fix it, he thinks.
Some of Trump’s inflammatory pronouncements have made Sause nervous, but he believes the candidate doesn’t always mean what he says.
“I’m very uncomfortable with those things, but I think they are gaffes,” he says. “Saying he’s going to ban all Muslims – I don’t think that’s what he meant … I don’t think he’s anybody’s fascist.”
Trump’s outspoken style evokes the other presidential candidate Sause likes: Democrat Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist.
“What they say is what they mean, like it or not,” he says of the candidates.
The Hollywood art director
Jay Hinkle has had a long interest in politics – his most recent project is the upcoming Rob Reiner political drama “LBJ.” But he never made a political donation until August, when he gave $250 to Trump.
“I wanted to see him stir the pot,” Hinkle, a self-described “liberal-thinking conservative,” says of Trump.
“If he inspires the other candidates to step forward and challenge his ideas … then so be it,” he added.
P.C. thinking has made it impossible for the nation to address many economic and social problems, says Hinkle, who also worked on “Die Hard.”
“Political correctness has so crippled our society that people are afraid to say things or do things,” he says.
But Trump thinks “it’s time to stop telling people what they want to hear,” Hinkle says.
He likes what he hears from Trump about the economy.
“One thing that Trump says that resonates with me is we have to get back to the basics,” he says. “We’ve got to create jobs. We can’t all push paper – we need plumbers.”
Mickey Spillane’s widow
Jane Spillane, third wife of the king of pulp detective fiction, is drawn to hard-edged New Yorkers. She donated $286 to Trump in August.
In the candidate, she can hear the tough-guy characters from Mickey Spillane’s novels. At times, she hears Spillane himself.
Trump “could have been a writer. He reminds you of Mickey, describing events,” she says. “He talks the way he feels. It comes out. Yeah, it might offend somebody and upset somebody. That’s life.”
Starting in 1947, Mickey Spillane wrote “My Gun is Quick,” “Kiss Me, Deadly” and about 30 other detective novels. Critics derided his books, but they sold more than 200 million copies. He died in 2006.
Jane Spillane married him in 1983. She lives in the home they shared in coastal South Carolina.
As a young woman, she says met her political idol, Ronald Reagan. Trump has a can-do attitude that reminds her of Reagan, she says.
“Trump would never say we can’t do something in America – we can,” she says. “What if Ronald Reagan had taken that attitude?”
She says there are no racist overtones to Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out those trying to cross illegally.
“Anybody that knows Don Trump knows that he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, and the Hispanics that work for him absolutely love him,” she says.
The first donor
Pamela Newman is a hard-charging Manhattan insurance executive who opens her checkbook for Republicans and Democrats alike. In recent years, she has given more than $150,000 to candidates ranging from Mitt Romney to Rick Perry, Hillary Clinton to Obama.
Her $2,700 donation to Trump came more than two weeks before he announced his presidential campaign. She also hosted a fundraiser for Trump, Bloomberg News reported.
The Trump Organization is among Newman’s biggest clients, and they have a long relationship. In 2011, Trump told CNBC’s “Nightly Business Report,” “There’s something about Pam where she just gets in there and kicks ass.”
Newman declined to comment for this story. Last summer, when asked by Politico about her support for Trump, she said, “I don’t have to talk to you about anything.”
The car dealer
Flamboyant Boston auto magnate Ernie Boch Jr.’s impermissible $86,937 donation to Trump was dated Aug. 28. On that day, Trump attracted 1,000 people to a rally at Boch’s home in suburban Norwood, Massachusetts.
On Sept. 30, Trump’s campaign gave back all but the $2,700 legal limit on donations in the primary.
The oversize donation and the subsequent refund reflected apparent confusion over federal campaign finance rules. Both Trump and Boch insisted that the rally was not a fundraiser, but the Associated Press reported that signs directed arriving guests to write $100 checks to Trump’s campaign.
Boch has a high profile in Boston, the result of heavy TV advertising for his chain of auto dealerships. He’s also known as the frontman for Ernie and the Automatics, a rock band that included former members of the 1970s group Boston.
According to news reports, Trump was booed by protesters as his stretch SUV pulled up at Boch’s residence, but once inside, he was mobbed by well-wishers. He gave both a news conference and a speech.
“To have a world figure in my home … to talk up close and personal, I think it’s great,” Boch told a reporter.
Other Trump donors include:
- Amy Lumet, film producer, granddaughter of singer Lena Horne, daughter of producer Sidney Lumet and ex-wife of political humorist P.J. O’Rourke: $500.
- Northwestern University law professor Steven Calabresi, former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: $2,700.
- U.S. Foreign Service Officer Robert Grasso, who is posted to Kyrgyzstan: $250.
- Dr. Cindy Knox, self-described surgeon and quarter horse breeder in Fayetteville, Arkansas: $500.
- Dr. Hatem Nour El Deen, psychiatrist and director of the military program at El Paso Behavioral Health System and a graduate of the Cairo University School of Medicine in Egypt: $1,000.
- Sharmai Amber, spiritual psychic soul therapist in Hawaii: $500.
Reporter Nathan Halverson and producer Ike Sriskandarajah contributed to this story. It was edited by Andrew Donohue and copy edited by Sheela Kamath and Nikki Frick.
Lance Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @LanceWCIR.