NORWOOD, Mass. (AP) — Donald Trump held a $100-per-person campaign event — which he repeatedly insisted wasn’t a fundraiser — outside of Boston on Friday evening as he backpedaled on his previous pledge not to accept contributions for his campaign.
“This Is not a fundraiser tonight, just so you understand,” Trump told reporters at the sprawling Norwood property owned by local car dealership owner Ernie Boch Jr. A combination of die-hard fans and those curious to see the spectacle were treated to food from chef Tony Ambrose and a live cover band, in addition to a speech from the billionaire businessman and Republican candidate.
Trump said the money raised was only being used to offset the costs of the event and said people attending could choose to pay whatever they wanted.
That’s despite multiple signs that were posted at the property’s entrance telling those arriving, “Please have cash ready or make checks payable to: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” and “Entry Fee $100 Per Person.”
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The event comes as Trump has reversed course on his early pledge to self-fund his campaign entirely.
“I don’t need anybody’s money,” he said in his announcement speech, declaring: “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
But Trump’s tone has changed in recent weeks as he’s warmed to the idea, adding a contributions page to his website and attending a fundraiser held by a super PAC supporting his candidacy.
“I actually like the idea of investing in a campaign,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “But it has to be no strings attached.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said earlier Friday the campaign had received tens of thousands in small-dollar donations in the last eight weeks from people eager to contribute to Trump’s effort. But he said the campaign had not made any efforts to solicit money and said contributions would remain “a very small portion” of the campaign’s funds.
Boch said the event had “started out as a fundraiser because (that’s) the usual thing for candidates.” But Boch added: “It wasn’t like that with Mr. Trump. He likes the idea of having people come in. So the money was not what he was interested in.”
Speaking to attendees under a giant tent on Boch’s yard later in the event, Trump continued to boast about all the contributions he claims he’s turned down.
“I feel a little bit like, ‘What’s going on?'” he said. “We’re turning down millions of dollars.”
He also launched into a personal attack against Huma Abedin, a top aide to Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has recently been swept up in the controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Trump, mispronouncing Abedin’s first name as “Uma,” suggested Abedin had shared classified information with her husband, former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned after sending explicit images of himself to women he’d met online. Trump called Weiner “one of the great sleazebags of our time.”
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill responded with a statement saying, “Trump has spent the summer saying offensive things about women, but there is no place for patently false, personal attacks towards a staff member.”
“He should be ashamed of himself, and others in his own party should take a moment to stand up to him and draw the line for once,” Merrill said.