Donald Trump is monetizing the State of the Union address, offering donors a chance to have their names displayed during the speech, turning a solemn and dignified occasion into a cash-grab for his 2020 election campaign.
As the Washington Post reports, supporters of the 45th president can kick in a few bucks for his re-election campaign (a minimum $35 donation, according to the website), and in exchange, the donor’s name will be displayed for everyone to see during the speech. Everyone, that is, who is watching the live stream of the State of the Union address on Trump’s website and not on, say, CNN or MSNBC.
“This is a movement. It’s not about just one of us. It’s about ALL of us. Which is why your name deserves to be displayed during tonight’s speech. Please make a special State of the Union contribution to have your name broadcast on the Official Donald J. Trump for President livestream.”
The website offers you the chance to donate either $35, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or, oddly, $2,700. That $2,700 figure exists because the federal government puts a limit on how much money individuals can donate to a candidate per election. Donors can also check a box that will allow them to turn their donation into a repeating monthly contribution (up to the limit, of course).
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) January 30, 2018
It is not clear, as of this writing, if donors who give larger amounts of money will somehow be rewarded in some way — perhaps by their name being displayed more frequently, or in bigger letters.
The appeal for State of the Union-inspired donations was also sent out to supporters via text message, according to Newsweek.
“Enough of the Fake News Media. It’s time for them to hear from the AMERICAN PEOPLE. Show how many Americans are dedicated to our movement. Contribute NOW and add your name to my Official List…”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some on the left were not at all amused with the Trump campaign’s cash grab.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, suggested going even a step further.
“Why not sell each paragraph to the highest bidder?”
Former Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee seemed downright distraught.
“Goodbye America. We had a good run.”
At this point, it bears noting that it’s unclear how much, if anything, Donald Trump himself had to do with this particular scheme to make money for his campaign. Political campaigns are generally run by professionals, who may or may not always act with the candidate’s directives or even permission.
However, Newsweek notes that Trump’s team has used a similar tactic before: during the 2016 campaign, Trump displayed the names of donors on a jumbo TV screen at the Republican National Convention, at the time calling it “the opportunity of a lifetime.”