Trump speaks to supporters in Arizona in front of his jet in December.

Trump speaks to supporters in Arizona in front of his jet in December. Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Trump Spends More On Jet Fuel Than On Staff

Frugal except about personal comforts, he burns through some $3 million on his Boeing 757 so he can sleep at home in Manhattan or Florida.

Re­pub­lic­ans des­per­ate to keep Don­ald Trump from their nom­in­a­tion can at least be thank­ful for this: When choos­ing between buy­ing fuel for his lux­ury jet­liner or a lar­ger cam­paign staff, Trump has op­ted for jet fuel.

From the start of his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign through the end of Feb­ru­ary, Trump’s spend­ing on private air travel, primar­ily his ker­osene-guzz­ling Boe­ing 757, totaled $3.4 mil­lion—about a third more than he spent on payroll and polit­ic­al con­sult­ants, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tion­al Journ­al ana­lys­is of Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion fil­ings.

The up­shot? Trump and a hand­ful of aides swoop to his ral­lies in style aboard an air­plane large enough to carry 200 pas­sen­gers, but GOP meet­ings at the county and con­gres­sion­al-dis­trict level around the coun­try have gone un­staffed by the Trump cam­paign, al­low­ing scores of del­eg­ates loy­al to Sen. Ted Cruz to win slots to the sum­mer nom­in­at­ing con­ven­tion.

Trump cam­paign aides did not reply to Na­tion­al Journ­al quer­ies. But GOP strategists crit­ic­al of Trump’s can­did­acy said his choices are not sur­pris­ing, giv­en his repu­ta­tion as be­ing tight­fis­ted about most spend­ing yet ex­tra­vag­ant when it comes to his per­son­al com­fort.

“He’s a nar­ciss­ist­ic baby,” said Flor­ida’s Rick Wilson, who sup­por­ted Sen. Marco Ru­bio’s bid and is now a key act­iv­ist in the “Nev­er Trump” move­ment.

Trump does also own a Cessna Cita­tion X, an eight-pas­sen­ger busi­ness jet that uses less than half as much fuel as the 757, which burns through $10,000 worth each hour. Trump has only used the smal­ler plane oc­ca­sion­ally, when a cam­paign event is be­ing held in a town that doesn’t have a suf­fi­ciently long run­way nearby.

The fond­ness for the big­ger plane, which boasts a state­room and a shower, has been an ex­pens­ive one, par­tic­u­larly with Trump’s pref­er­ence to spend every night at either his New York City apart­ment or Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach es­tate. Rather than in­cur­ring costs of hun­dreds of dol­lars a night for hotel rooms, he has been spend­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars so he can awaken in his own bed.

Had he used the smal­ler plane in­stead, he could have saved up­wards of $1 mil­lion—enough to have hired dozens more full-time staffers over the past year.

“It doesn’t shock me that he’s ba­sic­ally thrown money in­to a shred­der, spend­ing all that money for his plane. It doesn’t shock me at all,” Wilson said.

No oth­er can­did­ate has spent so much on private air travel com­pared to payroll. Cruz, his nearest re­main­ing Re­pub­lic­an rival, spent $5.9 mil­lion on payroll and polit­ic­al con­sult­ants through Feb. 29 (the latest fil­ing avail­able) but only $568,000 on private planes. Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner Hil­lary Clin­ton spent $35 mil­lion on staff and $3.7 mil­lion on private air travel—al­though some of that was re­im­bursed to the cam­paign by mem­bers of Clin­ton’s trav­el­ing press corps.

Trump has in re­cent weeks hired sev­er­al high-level aides in an ef­fort to se­cure the 1,237 del­eg­ates needed for the GOP nom­in­a­tion, in­clud­ing Paul Man­a­fort and Rick Wiley. Man­a­fort is a long­time Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ist and con­sult­ant who in 1976 helped Pres­id­ent Ford hold off a chal­lenge from Ron­ald Re­agan, while Wiley most re­cently ran Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er’s short-lived pres­id­en­tial bid. How much they are paid and wheth­er on-the-ground staff is also be­ing ad­ded in states that are choos­ing del­eg­ates this month will not be dis­closed in the FEC fil­ings un­til mid-May.

But through much of the cam­paign, Trump has res­isted hir­ing staff, cit­ing his high rank­ings in pub­lic polls to jus­ti­fy the ap­proach. Through Nov. 1, the Trump cam­paign had paid a grand total of 15 staffers and polit­ic­al con­sult­ants. In con­trast, Cruz had paid 75 by that date.

One Re­pub­lic­an con­sult­ant said privately that Trump’s Iowa strategist, Chuck Laud­ner, lob­bied hard for more on-the-ground work­ers in that first-to-vote state. “They didn’t listen to Laud­ner in Iowa, lost, then blamed him,” the con­sult­ant said. “Now, they’re pay­ing for it. Chuck has so many con­nec­tions in Iowa and oth­er states, he could have really helped with the del­eg­ate pro­cess. Missed op­por­tun­ity for them.”

Laud­ner de­clined to dis­cuss his work for Trump with Na­tion­al Journ­al. Trump’s FEC fil­ings show Laud­ner and the con­sult­ing firm re­gistered to his wife were paid $210,665 through the end of Feb­ru­ary. Laud­ner, in fact, is among five top Trump aides who among them re­ceived more than $1 mil­lion of the $2.5 mil­lion Trump spent on payroll and polit­ic­al con­sult­ants. Cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wan­dowski’s con­sult­ing firm was paid $321,098; James Mer­rill’s South Car­o­lina firm made $307,472; Mi­chael Glassner and his firm were paid $182,071, and so­cial-me­dia dir­ect­or Dan Scavino was paid $85,000.

Trump by the start of Feb­ru­ary ap­peared to have caught up with Cruz in staff­ing, with 109 paid em­ploy­ees and polit­ic­al con­sult­ants com­pared to 108 for Cruz. The fig­ures for March will be avail­able next week. Those fil­ings will also re­veal how much more of his own money Trump has put in­to his ef­fort. So far, Trump has lent his cam­paign $24.4 mil­lion of the $33 mil­lion he has spent. Much of the rest has come from the sale of hats, T-shirts, and oth­er paraphernalia.

While Trump fre­quently claims a net worth of $10 bil­lion, a Na­tion­al Journ­al re­view of his fin­an­cial dis­clos­ure fil­ing and re­ports of court tran­scripts found that he is likely worth con­sid­er­ably less—and in any event only had between $78 mil­lion and $232 mil­lion in re­l­at­ively li­quid as­sets when he began his cam­paign last year

(Top image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)