Donald Trump faces bitter opposition from business fundraisers: Don Pittis

Donald Trump is selling himself as a successful representative of business. A powerful business lobby disagrees. As pro-business commentators distance themselves, donors are ponying up to keep The Donald out of the White House.

Expect a flood of vicious anti-Trump ads as millions pour in to keep The Donald out of the White House

To many of his admirers, Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump will bring his skills as a successful businessman to the job. But business commentators have called him 'a promoter of paranoid fantasies' and worse. (Reuters)

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is offering himself up to Americans as a successful billionaire businessman ready to apply his financial skills to making America great again. 

But rather than being viewed as a safe pair of hands, many pro-business conservatives regard The Donald's run for the White House with horror, ponying up for a multimillion-dollar fund to turn Americans against him. 

The results are expected as soon as this week, visible in a new round of attack ads as the lobby fund or "super PAC" tries to sway Republican delegates in time for next week's presidential primaries.

Pressing issue: Normal fingers?

In a Republican race that has descended into debates over the length of the candidate's fingers (and yes, other appendages), there is a danger that raucous attack ads could play right into Trump's normal-sized hands.

At the beginning, of course, no one took Trump seriously. With his crazy hair and playground insults, his policy — or lack of it — didn't really matter. There was no way he was going to win.
A supporter of Donald Trump at a rally last week. Serious Republicans worry his popularity is due to showbiz flair rather than traditional conservative values. (Reuters)

Clearly the circus atmosphere of the Trump campaign has real appeal. Like the reality TV show The Apprentice that exposed him to the American masses, style is infinitely more important than substance.

Trump is a special kind of American media star who has taken "famous for being famous" to new heights, and maybe, right into the Oval Office. At this point, it would almost feel natural for him to pick Paris Hilton as his running mate, to bring in the female vote.

Free publicity

With the media glued to each new outrage and embarrassment, his business opponents complain that he gets millions of dollars in free publicity, attracting the kind of crazed fandom more common to pop stars than sober presidential candidates.

Prominent business leaders who have contributed to the anti-Trump super PAC, called the Our Principles PAC, include HP CEO Meg Whitman and billionaires Todd Ricketts and Paul Singer. Also associated with the PAC is Tim Miller, communications director for Jeb Bush, before he dropped out of the race.
Billionaire businessman Paul Singer does not approve of Trump, contributing to a multimillion-dollar 'super PAC' lobby fund aimed expressly at keeping The Donald out of the White House. (Reuters)

Although principles may be at stake, there are Republican practicalities involved as well.

"Hillary Clinton will destroy him, even if she's campaigning from jail," Miller told CBS News.

Paranoid fantasies

The business media have also turned on Trump.

Canadian-American conservative intellectual David Frum tweeted his disdain: "It's the end of the conservative world as we knew it."

Writing in The Financial Times, columnist Martin Wolf was scathing.

"Mr Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus," ranted Wolf, warning that if Trump's policies were carried out, they would fly in the face of America's existing political legalities, signalling the collapse of the American era — like Rome brought down not by invaders but internal rot.

In fact it is hard to be sure who likes him less, the left or the right. You would think John Oliver's devastating and hilarious monologue about Trump, the shortness of his fingers, his business failures and family's original last name (Drumpf) would have more clout than 10 attack ads. But in an odd way, being the butt of Oliver's humour adds to Trump's cult status.

John Oliver recently skewered Trump in his Last Week Tonight monologue. But being the butt of the comedian's humour may actually add to Trump's cult-like status. (Last Week Tonight/HBO)

Not all high-profile business contributors have turned against The Donald. There are multiple reports that the Koch brothers, famous for bankrolling conservative politicians and causes, are not putting their money to work fighting Trump, a tacit gesture of support.

For those who are backing the anybody-but-Trump campaign, losing to the Democrats may not be the only issue. Having used his personal fortune to fund his own campaign, Trump is not as beholden to the moneyed Republican establishment as previous conservative candidates.

If Trump actually made it to the presidency, would he read from conventional Republican prayer book? Or would he go off on some wild tack of his own, backed by the roaring mob of his supporters? Not all of his pronouncements have been unequivocally pro-business.

Trump presents such a superficial image that he is hard to read. Is he a wily cynic hoping to use his populist power for nefarious ends? Or is he merely ingenuous and stupid? 

Mugging for the camera, voicing a folksy quip, raising an eloquent index finger, cracking a winning smile of gleaming white teeth, Donald Trump has gotten much closer to the White House than almost anyone expected.

It is far from impossible that he could make it all the way.

Maybe, against all the rules of U.S. politics, money won't be able to stop him.

Like America's version of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Trump's populist style could sweep him into office over the heads of the established political elite. And with the backing of ordinary Americans, who knows what kind of government would result. No wonder establishment Republicans are worried.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

​More analysis by Don Pittis

About the Author

Don Pittis

Business columnist

Don Pittis was a forest firefighter, and a ranger in Canada's High Arctic islands. After moving into journalism, he was principal business reporter for Radio Television Hong Kong before the handover to China. He has produced and reported for the CBC in Saskatchewan and Toronto and the BBC in London. He is currently senior producer at CBC's business unit.


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