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Op-Ed: Trent Clark Should Apologize to Small Donors

By • April 7, 2024

A response to Trent Clark’s opinion article: “The Curse of the Small Donor”

I saw Trent Clark’s March 22nd opinion article “The Curse of the Small Donor” in the Bear Lake News-Examiner, and I feel compelled respond.

Trent’s article is about why ‘Big’ donors are better than ‘small’ donors. Trent states:

“Jonah Goldberg of the American Enterprise Institute, who spent years studying how we pay for elections, noticed that “candidates who depend on small donors tend to take more polarizing positions.”

This is easily explained. Big donors want details. You promise to reduce the deficit? How? Cut social security? Cut national defense? Raise the alternative minimum tax? To get the big bucks, a candidate must deliver a detailed and philosophically consistent message that major donors can embrace.”

The opposite is true of small donors. Small donors devote little time to analysis. Their “giving reaction” is driven by hyper-emotional messages, increasingly viewed online. The average TikTok pitch is between 21 and 34 seconds. A display ad on Facebook is successful if viewed for more than .7 seconds. And Youtube’s most effective ads last only 15-20 seconds.

So small-dollar donations are driven by short, soul-wrenching pictures and heart-pounding narratives conveyed in mere seconds. Goldberg notes that “on the right, small donations tend to flow to candidates and grifters vowing to wage war on the mythologically all-powerful establishment.”

Trent then goes on to trash Kari Lake and Donald Trump.

Trent’s comments really bothered me. I’m not going to question the results of Jonah Goldberg’s study, because the last few years have definitely shown us that the ‘experts’ are always right (lock down for only 2 weeks, wear the mask, take the shot, etc.). Especially ones paid to ‘study’ something, whether the ‘study’ is being performed to support one position or another doesn’t matter.

What bothered me was how insulting Trent was to small donors. First off, how many ‘Big’ donors, especially ‘Big Business’ donors, really care about reducing the deficit, cutting social security, cutting national defense, or raising the alternative minimum tax? It is well understood that government and Big Business work (conspire) together. The ‘Big’ generally makes money off the government and government policies. Therefore, Big Business likely cares less about many of these things as they pass the cost onto the consumer. However, Big Business does care about legislation that benefits them and their profits. Lobbying and candidate donations, which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars or more, are just part of doing business to increase profits, and these ‘expenses’ are budgeted for.

Trent states:

“Small donors devote little time to analysis. Their “giving reaction” is driven by hyper-emotional messages, increasingly viewed online. The average TikTok pitch is between 21 and 34 seconds. A display ad on Facebook is successful if viewed for more than .7 seconds. And Youtube’s most effective ads last only 15-20 seconds.

So small-dollar donations are driven by short, soul-wrenching pictures and heart-pounding narratives conveyed in mere seconds.”

I strongly disagree with Trent, and I believe his statement above is very insulting to small donors. The small donor is likely to be the everyday working-class individual that is the backbone of our country and our state. It is highly unlikely the small donor has tens of thousands of dollars at their disposal to spend on candidate donations.

The small donor truly cares about legislation that directly affects them personally, and they make a financial sacrifice in order to contribute to a cause or candidate they believe in, especially in these rough economic times. Careful thought has gone into where they are willing to send their dollars. The donation a small donor makes may mean the donor goes without eating for a day. I have found that small donors absolutely do pay attention and they are making conscious, educated decisions on where their donations go and why.

Yes, small donors may be everyday working-class people and not ‘corporate executives’, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid. In my view, Trent needs to apologize for what he said about small donors.

By Doug Toomer, Candidate for State Senate, Legislative District 35 and Founder of Stand Up for Idaho


This Op-Ed was submitted by Doug Toomer. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.

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Tags: American Enterprise Institute, Bear Lake News-Examiner, Big business, Big donor, campaign donations, Candidate, Conspiring, corporate executives, Donald Trump, emotions, Facebook, Government, Jonah Goldberg, Kari Lake, Policy, small donor, Tik Tok, Trent Clark, working-class, YouTube

8 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Trent Clark Should Apologize to Small Donors

  1. Just remember that the elites, government class want subjects, not citizens!! Trent Clark believes he is an elite!

  2. Remember, big corporations can afford dedicated lobbyists to carve out loopholes in tax codes, etc. for their benefit! So-called “small donors” are always the ones who get affected by these laws and bear the largest costs even though they are least able to pay them!

  3. Trent Clark has fallen prey to the musings of his own ego. Like most all politicians, he has come to believe that only they, and the people who write the big checks, can possibly understand the complexities of the public need and the government response to that need. The everyday voter (small donor?) has a better grasp on economics than these people will ever have. The everyday voter has only the budget afforded by the work of his own hands to provide for his family and future. Every entity, chief among them is government, is reaching out and making demands on that budget to which they have no right, but only laws that make it possible to steal ever more from the small donor/ everyday voter. I guess if you insulate yourself from that, which is basically the definition of politics, you start seeing yourself as smarter than all of those around you. I’ll rely on the intelligence and emotional stability of the small donor 100% of the time. They are, after all, the group who have the deepest roots in reality.

    1. Ten thumbs up! The “corporate” or “big” donors serve as their own echo chamber, same message from every direction, so they “believe” it’s universal..

  4. Trent could not be more insulting to Idaho’s hard-working men and women. I cherish every donation to our campaign for the Idaho Senate. I received a very well-worn $5 bill. I plan to frame it to remind me who I work for.

    Shame on Trent Clark

  5. The “Elites” think peasants (what they think of the common person) like us don’t understand the complexities of debt. That debt is good. Never ending borrowing and spending is even better. The Bible says the opposite.
    Deuteronomy 15:6
    “For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.”
    Proverbs 22:7
    “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”
    We need more common people in office and less “elites”. Anyone who is a lawyer should be automatically disqualified from office. They’re trained liars of the worst sort, as a general rule.

  6. Trent Clark is an establishment RINO. He’s connected with other establishment RINOS. He along with past Idaho GOP officers (Tom Luna and others) who were voted out of office in 2022 during the State Convention are now trying take away the people’s voice by taking large contributions from Mega donors to defeat strong conservative, liberty minded Precinct Committeemen and women across the state.

    He, along with other past Idaho GOP officers would like to return the Idaho GOP to the establishment elites as they feel entitled to be leading from the top down. They have been busy recruiting challengers to the incumbent Precinct Committeemen and women across the State of Idaho hoping to put the power back in the hands of the elites rather than the grass roots.

    The establishment elites such as Trent Clark, Tom Luna and others are beholden the larger donors. The grass roots Precinct Committeemen and women of the Idaho GOP (PC’s) are beholden only to the citizens who contribute what they can in their precincts. Please do your homework on who is running for PC and be aware that many of the challengers don’t even know what a PC is or what they do. They spread lies and misinformation, they take huge donations and spend it all on trying to crush the dedicated, hard working PC’s of the Idaho GOP.

    I am the Precinct Committeeman for Precinct #1919 for the Ada County Republican Party

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