As Donald Trump fumes and fulminates in the White House, amid a pandemic, economic calamity, and widespread civil unrest, he and his political team are not taking their eyes off the big picture: raising money for his reelection campaign. With Americans across the nation protesting social inequities and violent policing—which Trump at times has encouraged—and with public health experts continuing to warn against large gatherings, the Trump campaign sent out an invitation for a megadollar fundraiser in Dallas on June 11.
The admission fee: $580,600. For this, you get dinner and a photo with Trump. Pricey? Well, this donation does cover a couple.
That’s right, for more than half a million bucks—with the money going to Trump’s campaign, the Republican National Committee, and an assortment of state GOP outfits—you can get a few seconds of face time with Trump and a pic to commemorate the moment.
The hosts for the event are…well, predictable. No showbiz celebrities. No sports heroes. No popular influencers. There’s the head of the RNC, Ronna McDaniel, RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks Jr., and the chief fundraiser for the GOP, Todd Ricketts. (Hicks, a buddy of Donald Trump Jr., has used his connections to set up meetings for business associates with the Trump White House. Ricketts, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, last year was accused of skipping out on his fair share of property taxes.) Also on the hosts list: Kimberly Guilfoyle, chair of the Trump Victory Finance Committee and constant companion of Trump Jr., and campaign manager Brad Parscale, who has gotten rich off donations to the Trump campaign.
Though $500,000-plus for the chance to stand close to Trump seems high, this amount does not set a record. In 2016, the Trump campaign and the RNC held a fundraiser, once again in Dallas, with a top-dollar donation of $893,000 per couple. But you could still get into the event for a contribution as measly as $5,400 for a twosome. (The invitation for the coming Trump fundraiser does not offer such a poor-man’s option.) In February, Trump held a fundraiser at the Palm Beach estate of billionaire Nelson Peltz, also for $580,600 per couple.
Joe Biden, too, is trying to get into this big-money game. The presumptive Democratic nominee’s campaign has worked out an arrangement with the Democratic National Committee and state parties to raise $620,600 apiece from wealthy donors to support his White House run and other Democratic candidates. But Biden has yet to host an event with this sum as the ticket price. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is scheduled to mount an online big-dollar event for the former vice president later this month, but the cost of admission has not been publicly reported.
Back to the Trump event: The invitation stirs a number of questions. Will there be social distancing at this shindig? How close to Trump will half-a-mil donors be allowed to get for their photo with him? Will there be handshakes? Will guests be screened for the coronavirus before they are allowed into the event? Will they be tested before posing with Trump? Will they have to wear a mask? Or will they have to take off a mask to be photographed with Trump?
Mother Jones emailed one of the event’s organizers at the GOP about all this. No reply, so far.
Though Trump these days is laying low in his besieged White House—he didn’t even get out to play golf this past weekend—he does have this big “special evening” to look forward to. As of now, he doesn’t want to talk to Americans about the protests and the violence occurring, while the nation is still threatened by a deadly virus that has struck down over 100,000 souls. But he will gladly hobnob with well-heeled swells who are willing to underwrite his presidency. And he will flash his famous (or infamous) grimace-smile on the photo line—as long as you pay him big money to do so.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Trump campaign says the Secret Service and the White House medical unit will vet attendees for the event. Trump’s donors will have to test negative for coronavirus that day and undergo a temperature screening.