Did Brad Parscale Almost Bankrupt The Trump 2020 Election?

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Brad Parscale was the Digital Director for Trump’s Presidential campaign in 2016. He was highly effective in that role and is frequently associated with Trump’s incredible win in 2016. However, in 2020 Brad was promoted to the campaign manager. This may have been the case of the Peter Principle. The peter principle states that members of a hierarchy are promoted until they reach the level at which they are no longer competent. Also I believe Brad had a case of hero worship for Donald Trump. I believe that he was in over his head with these expanded duties. He was simply overwhelmed. He also let his success go to his head. He had his own car and a driver, an unheard of extravagance for a campaign manager. It is no secret that Trump is extravagant himself. He likes the better things in life, and has spent himself into bankruptcy more than once. Because of his hero worship, he was unable to say no to Trump, he also wanted to out do previous managers by doing extreme campaign gimmicks, like Super Bowl commercial time (11 million), banners for air planes (156,000), a proposed Nascar car bearing Trump’s name (3 Million), coalition groups (50 million). Aids riding on Air Force One, all told Brad Pascale blew through $350 million of the $800 for fund-raising operations. A $100 million was spent on an advertising blitz prior to the RNC. “If you spend $800 million and you’re 10 points behind, I think you’ve got to answer the question ‘What was the game plan?’” said Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist who runs a small pro-Trump super PAC, and who accused Mr. Parscale of spending “like a drunken sailor.”

Since Bill Stepien replaced Mr. Parscale in July, the campaign has imposed a series of belt-tightening measures that have reshaped initiatives, including hiring practices, travel and the advertising budget. The number of staff members allowed to travel to events has been pared back to avoid what one senior campaign official described as “sponsoring vacations.” “The most important thing I do every day is pay attention to the budget,” Mr. Stepien said in a brief interview. He declined to discuss budget specifics but said the campaign had enough funds to win. Most visibly, the Trump campaign slashed its August television spending, mostly abandoning the airwaves during the party conventions. In the last two weeks of the month, Mr. Biden’s campaign spent $35.9 million on television, compared with $4.8 million for Mr. Trump, according to Advertising Analytics.

“We held on to cash to make sure that we’ll have the firepower that we need” for the fall, said Jason Miller, a senior Trump strategist, who contended that airing ads during the conventions would prove a waste for Mr. Biden. “We want to make sure that we’re saving it for when it really matters, when it’s going to move the needle.”

Mr. Miller defended spending money on television ads earlier this spring and summer, calling it a “tough” decision necessary to keep Mr. Trump competitive as the nation suffered through a pandemic and its economic fallout.

The Trump campaign has undertaken its own financial review of spending under Mr. Parscale. Among the first changes implemented was shutting down an ad campaign that used Mr. Parscale’s personal social media accounts to deliver pro-Trump ads. More than $800,000 had been poured into boosting Mr. Parscale’s Facebook and Instagram pages; those ads ceased the day after he was removed as campaign manager.

Mr. Parscale said the Facebook page was “not my idea” and the “family’s direct approval” had been sought on the program.

“I built an unprecedented infrastructure with the Republican Party under this family’s leadership since 2016,” Mr. Parscale said in a statement to The Times. “I am proud of my achievements.”

Some spending choices appear devised, at least in part, to satisfy Mr. Trump himself, including the Super Bowl ads, which were purchased as part of an advertising arms race with Mr. Bloomberg. The two ads on game day cost more than the Trump campaign spent on local television through the end of July in each of four battleground states: Wisconsin ($3.9 million), Michigan ($3.6 million), Iowa ($2 million) and Minnesota ($1.3 million).

Another Trump-pleasing expense: more than $1 million in ads aired in the Washington, D.C., media market, a region that is not likely to be competitive in the fall but where the president, a famously voracious television consumer, resides.

Millions more followed to firms tied to R.N.C. and Trump-linked officials, including more than $39 million to two firms, Parscale Strategy LLC and Giles-Parscale, controlled by Mr. Parscale since the beginning of 2017.

Mr. Parscale said that he had “no ownership or financial interest in A.M.M.C.” and that he had “negotiated a contract with the family for 1 percent of digital ad spend and after becoming campaign manager took no percentage.”

There is little question that Mr. Parscale helped the Trump campaign construct an unparalleled Republican operation to lure small donors online. He directed a nine-figure investment in digital ads and list-building that appears to have largely paid for itself. Some of the president’s advisers believe it will continue to pay great dividends in the final weeks, pointing to the $165 million raised by the president and his party in July — more than any month in 2016.

“You have to spend money to make money,” explained Mr. Walters, the R.N.C. chief of staff. “We have had a big increase in revenue because of early investments we made in online fund-raising and direct mail.”

There have been other squandered costs driven by Mr. Trump’s sometimes mercurial desires. He switched his convention plans twice, incurring many expenses along the way. In July, for instance, the R.N.C. made a $325,000 payment to the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island near Jacksonville for the convention that never happened there. The party is not expected to get that money back.

So there is no doubt that spending was fast and loose in the campaign. It is also evident that Parscale should have been left at his 2016 position. He excelled there. He simply did not have what it took to not only manage the campaign but also to keep a tighter rein on Trump himself. Skills that his replacement Mr. Stepien had in spades. It also seems that, though there is not any real proof of this, but Parscale left his position enriched.


nytimes.com, “How Trump’s Billion-Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage,” By Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman;

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