Guess who wants your money?
By Gail Collins
Welcome to February! Any notable January accomplishments to report, people? Well, I received 266 email messages from Donald Trump, asking for money. Got to be a lifetime achievement award in there somewhere.
“HAPPY NEW YEAR, Friend,” began one of his missives. (In this one-way correspondence, Trump always calls me Friend. The last time I saw him in person, he complained, “You’ve never been nice to me.” But apparently in fundraisingville, we’re best pals.)
“You’ve always been one of my BIGGEST supporters,” he added with grace and stupendous inaccuracy, “which is why I want YOU to be our VERY FIRST DONOR of 2022.” I got this particular message on Jan. 26, which makes it highly unlikely that the first spot was still open, although one can hope.
About 60 of my Trump fundraising emails were signed by one of his sons. Busy boy, Don Jr. He also just co-founded his own publishing imprint, which reportedly gave Dad a multimillion-dollar advance for “Our Journey Together,” a photo book for which, Junior said, our former president “wrote all the captions, including some by hand.”
The profits from the book could presumably go to help defray the costs of defending Trump in the multitudinous lawsuits filed against him for everything from misusing inauguration funds to inciting the Jan. 6 riot in Washington. Of course, he’s already sitting on a cushion of about $122 million in political donations, so an immediate fall into pauperism seems unlikely.
And if all else fails they’ve got Melania’s hat, which was available to a fan of historical fashion for a mere $250,000.
Now some of you may have managed to avoid the Trump email list but are still being barraged by tons of requests for donations from candidates for the Senate, House, governor and so on. Feel free to read them.
You’re going to want to support good people who are actually running for office. Find someone you like and send a contribution. Otherwise the folks who get elected are going to be sworn into their new jobs believing that all their success is due to the generosity of extremely rich people and lobbyists.
According to my deeply unscientific research, Beto O’Rourke, the Texas gubernatorial hopeful, is one of the emailing champs on this front. And I’m sure a lot of you have heard from Nancy Pelosi, who’s collecting cash for the House Democratic team and gets points for her talent at raising alarm about fundraising successes on the other side. (“My heart is racing, Gail. …”)
This week’s award for creative nagging for money is still pending, but my current favorite is John Fetterman, the Democratic lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, who’s running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey.
“Gail, Today the world’s most famous groundhog and Pennsylvania hero, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted six more weeks of winter. No matter to me (I’m just gonna keep wearing shorts) but I figured you could use some good news,” he wrote.
You will notice Fetterman’s team has gotten my name. And at least on my email list, he was the first to clock in with a Groundhog Day connection. I guess he wanted to remind everybody that he wore shorts when he greeted President Joe Biden at the site of that collapsed Pennsylvania bridge. Also, of course, to tack on a tiny note suggesting a $5 donation.
I got 35 emails from Fetterman in January. Points for perseverance or penalties for pestiness?
Daniel Weiner of the Brennan Center’s Elections and Government Program told me last year that he’d spent Thanksgiving listening to his relatives complain about the deluge of fundraising emails they were getting. Now he reports that in preparing to welcome in a new year, he spent three hours in the kitchen with his mother, trying to clear out the flood of pleas she’s getting by text.
(Did you know that you can donate to political campaigns via text these days? Authorized, Weiner said, by the Federal Election Commission “in one of its rare acts of doing something.”)
Weiner didn’t have time to also tackle his mother’s email deluge on his visit. “But I’m sure I’ll spend Passover bent over her phone,” he sighed.
By the way, all requests for money are supposed to be accompanied by a little spot you can click to discontinue the correspondence. But experts say your tormentors will just get your address back from another mailing list.
“Once politicians have your name, they’re going to sell it,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, who keeps track of these things.
Oh well. Nobody ever said democracy came cheap.
One of my favorite parts of the Trump letters is his soulful assurance that he gets up every day hoping he’ll finally be hearing from his great friend Friend, only to have his heart broken once again.
“This will be the trip of a lifetime, Friend, and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have there with me,” Trump wrote on Tuesday, promising a visit to Mar-a-Lago to the winner of a special donor contest. “I’ve asked to see the next list of entries TOMORROW, and I don’t want to get another list without Friend on it.”
Gee, it sounds like he’s been dwelling on this day and night. Amazing he can find the time to run around the country claiming the election was stolen.