Yesterday, Trump tried to accuse prominent Iowa evangelical Bob Vander Plaats of having made or attempted to make money off of Trump's name and publicity. Specifically, he accused Vander Plaats of making $100,000 off of arranging for Trump to speak at an Iowa event, and of (I guess) trying to get Trump to let him stay in his hotels for free. Thankfully for Vander Plaats, the actual records show that Trump had this situation exactly backwards, and that it was Trump who extorted the six figure fee, while Vander Plaats received nothing.
However, Erick has been raising an interesting point about the timing of Trump's attack, one that indicates that there is a pretty good probability that Trump has successfully purchased many prominent figures in the conservative movement, even if he wasn't successful at purchasing Vander Plaats:
Trump’s allegation is that Vander Plaats sought freebies from Trump, but it seems his implication is that he gave Vander Plaats a good hotel rate, but could not buy Bob’s support with a hotel rate or anything else. Bob is not that sort of guy anyway.
The reality is that Trump has made this sort of attack against a number of conservatives, but I see it as a confirmation that there are those who did get good deals and endorsed Trump. In other words, the attack on Bob Vander Plaats really is not an attack on Bob, who made the Cruz endorsement more than a month ago. The attack is actually a subtle reminder to others who may be going woobly in the face of strong evangelical and conservative opposition to Trump in the past few days that they will be exposed by Trump himself. Why attack Bob today when Bob endorsed a month ago?
He wants to remind those television talking heads and others that he’ll reveal their thirty pieces of silver if they stray.
The reality is that many within the conservative movement are remarkably cheap dates. Conservative orgs do not have a ton of bottomless pocket angel donors like leftist organizations have. Anyone who has or could possibly write a check of even decent size has to be treated with kid gloves.
Now, Trump has not really been a very prominent donor to conservative causes over the years. I don't think he sees much value in them, as we saw during the fracas with Club for Growth. But I have no doubt that he's been doing strategic things with certain key people in the conservative movement, whose silence or endorsement is easier to buy than whole institutions anyway.
Trump has gotten some bizarre endorsements and some strangely favorable coverage during the course of this primary campaign from some people who ought to know better - like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Phyllis Schlafly (or whoever is doing the writing for her nowadays), and others. The chances that Trump has extended favors to these people that they don't want uncovered is probably pretty high.
We know Trump tried to buy Bob Vander Plaats, and failed. The question, then, is obvious: who all did Trump succeed at buying?