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Trump's not showing up for less than $1 million

Donald Trump
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Donald Trump

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is attending a campaign fundraiser hosted by Justin Timberlake and his wife, Jessica Biel. The next day, she'll be attending another fundraiser, this time hosted by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

While Clinton certainly has more fundraising events and bigger celebrities, Donald Trump is trying to make up for it by simply asking for more money at each event. In fact, Trump's campaign expects seven digits in contributions from each fundraising event it holds.

"We target to raise at least a million dollars per event," said Steven Mnuchin, national finance chairman for the Trump campaign. "Clinton does a lot of smaller events — we don't do that."

The campaign does that by holding far fewer fundraising events and asking for bigger donations.

Tickets for Clinton's event Tuesday, for example, top out at $33,400 per guest, according to news reports. It was supposed to be hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio, but he got held up due to a change in his work schedule, and Timberlake stepped in. At the same time, Trump will be in Austin, Texas, at a reception with tickets topping $100,000 per couple.

If $100,000 seems like a big number, contrast that with the $449,400 figure that has appeared on the invitations of multiple events held for Trump. That's according to data from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization using open data to make politics more transparent. The Sunlight Foundation collects invitations and news reports about fundraising events all over the country.

Multiple Trump campaign events have requested this peculiar number, just $600 short of $450,000. One of those reported events, in July, included diet guru Jenny Craig as a host. Another $449,400 event was co-hosted by Jamie McCourt, the former Los Angeles Dodgers owner.

The $449,400 is based on the maximum possible contribution that one donor can write to Trump's joint fundraising committee. The limit is based on a mix of money going to 11 state parties, four different Republican National Committee accounts and Trump's direct campaign account. One reason that max is so high is a Supreme Court decision from 2014 that did away with aggregate contribution limits in political campaigns.

The campaign expects more state parties to join the Trump Victory joint fundraising committee "in the near future," Mnuchin said. So that total max figure could change.

Generally speaking, Clinton events tend to max out their financial requests in the $50,000 area, similar to the Timberlake event going for $33,400. Clinton's campaign can probably ask for a lot less, because it makes up for it in volume, hosting an enormous amount of fundraisers.

"We've been fundraising for two months and she's been fundraising for 20 years," Mnuchin said.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment on its fundraising strategies.

Trump's campaign raised around $80 million in July and finished the month with $37 million cash in hand, according to the Federal Election Commission. Clinton brought in $90 million and ended the month with more than $58 million in cash.

Counting events

Sunlight has listed 38 Trump campaign events, all of them scheduled between May 24-Aug. 30. Those 38 events are nothing when put up against the 112 being held for Clinton during the same time period. And then you have to add 541 events going back as far as October 2013. There were 40 events for Clinton just in New York and California alone.

The difference in fundraising numbers also could be due to the dynamics and spread of the primary races, said Josh Stewart, deputy communications director at Sunlight.

"Trump didn't really have practice for this in the primary campaign. He was building no big network," he said. "The Republicans are good at this — they could step in and ramp it up."

The fundraisers list from Sunlight is by no means exhaustive. It's based on the firm's research and tips sent in from credible news reports. But it's the best aggregate tracker of a world that's often kept behind closed doors.

A quick glance of the Clinton events will reveal all kinds of celebrities: Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, Michelle Kwan, Billie Jean King, Jon Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, Barbra Streisand, Magic Johnson and Jennifer Garner. Compare that to Trump's collection of billionaires and former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan.