"(Trump) is the dark side," he told CNBC.com in an interview this week. "He is the crony capitalist. He is not repentant. He is not like me saying, 'I have seen the light.' I admitted I was wrong. He never admitted he was wrong." Trump's press office did immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.com.
Since announcing his candidacy, Trump has argued that his experience as a businessman has shown him just how compromised elected officials are by their political contributors—and that his largely self-financed presidential campaign frees him from specials interests and lobbyists to represent the American voter.
"You know what's nice about me? I don't need anybody's money," Trump has said.
(Never mind that Trump's super PAC, is being run by lobbyists, according to The Daily Beast. Or that he has appeared at a fundraiser for that super PAC, an entity that can raise unlimited, undisclosed financial contributions from donors.)
Trump's avowals of financial-political independence have, at once, reignited and confounded the debate on campaign finance reform, five years after the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case ushered in a river of so-called "dark money."
Reformers have been waiting for a moment to reclaim the ground they feel has been subsumed by Citizens United and, to that end, have been hoping the message about campaign finance reform would begin reverberating as much on the right as it has on the left. In this way, Trump, the current Republican front-runner and putative tea party darling, has presented such an opportunity.
His comments on the horse trading in modern American politics have been welcomed by some notable open government advocates, such as Larry Lessig, the Harvard law professor who is pondering his own Democratic presidential campaign on a one-issue campaign finance reform platform.
In a story Politico published Tuesday, Lessig called Trump the "biggest gift to the movement for reform since the Supreme Court gave us Citizens United." He added that the New York real estate magnate was speaking the "absolute truth" on big money in politics.
But Abramoff and others worry that Trump, ever declamatory and not always logically consistent, threatens to muck up what could otherwise be a constructive advance toward reform efforts.
"Once Trump enters the discussion, the various sides of the debate have to now respond to his bombast," said Abramoff. "Nobody is any longer talking about things in a constructive way when [Trump] starts talking about them. It just kills any discussion of an issue and I feel that will be the way with campaign finance."
Last week, The Wall Street Journal editorial board called called Trump's case for his own pluto-autonomy the campaign's "worst argument."
"He may be 'unbeholden' in the traditional sense," Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the consumer rights group Public Citizen, told CNBC.com. "But Donald Trump is the business interest that so many Americans want to see lawmakers not become."