In June, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton accused Republican candidate Donald Trump of “spending his meager campaign resources on… himself,” but how accurate was Clinton’s criticism of her opponent?
In her tweet, the Democratic candidate pointed to a ProPublica reporter Derek Willis’ findings that enumerated the payments by the real estate magnate’s campaign to entities with his name on them—totaling more than $1.37 million. The list did not include payments to Trump’s Florida mansion for hosting campaign events there, nor the times the campaign paid Trump’s own aviation company for transport.
“It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Trump, whose net worth is estimated to be about $3.7 billion, told Fortune’s Jerry Useem in April 2000.
So how much did he make from running?
In addition to Willis’ $1.37 million—which is likely a lowball estimate, as he posted the findings at the start of the summer—a September analysis by CBS News found that Trump’s aviation company received $5.6 million over the course of the campaign’s travels on his luxury Boeing 757. As for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, the campaign has paid more than $423,000 in rent to use the private property, CBS found. That brings the total to about $7.4 million, or about 2.4 percent of the $286 million his campaign has spent so far.
Around the time Willis and Clinton pointed out the billionaire’s self-financing habits, Trump converted what was initially a $50 million loan to his campaign, which it would later owe him, into a gift—and a much-needed one at that, as the campaign was struggling with nearly $46 million in debt at the time.
But none of these measures take into account the free advertising perks Trump has enjoyed, thanks to his hold of the media spotlight, since the moment he announced his intent to join the presidential race nearly a year and a half ago.
The candidate received $2 billion worth of free media coverage as of March, the New York Times reported, citing data from MediaQuant. On top of advertising his electability, Trump has used his television appearances to promote his many businesses—for free.
In her catalogue of the numerous times Trump has used his golf courses, hotels and other properties as sites for campaign speeches and press conferences, NPR writer Meg Anderson pointed to a particularly obvious plug, in which the candidate touted the quality of Trump Steaks, the Trump Winery, the Trump Shuttle airline, Trump Natural Spring Water and the controversial Trump University at a single March event in Florida.
“Their report cards were all excellent, beautiful statements. We love it,” Trump said of students in his online business program, which faces a class action fraud lawsuit. “We have a lot of great people who want to get back into Trump University. It’s going to do very well and it will continue to do very well.”
Some, including President Barack Obama, have wondered aloud whether Trump’s goal all along was simply to make a profit, rather than to win the presidency. His Fortune interview might support such theories.
“I went to the Wharton School of Finance, which is the number one school. I’m intelligent,” he told Useem more than 16 years ago. “Some people would say I’m very, very intelligent.”