By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Donald Trump has forgiven nearly $50 million in loans he made to his presidential campaign, he said on Thursday, signaling to donors that future contributions will be used to fight Democrat Hillary Clinton and not to repay himself.
The announcement that Trump will not seek repayment of the loans via contributions came amid concerns from his backers that he does not have enough money to fund his campaign for the Nov. 8 election. He had only $1.3 million in cash to start the month.
"I have absolutely no intention of paying myself back for the nearly $50 million dollars I have loaned to the campaign," the presumptive Republican nominee said in a statement.
The New York developer has suggested he could use more of his personal wealth to help win the White House.
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"(Trump) has also said he will contribute significantly more money," Steve Mnuchin, the top fundraiser for Trump's campaign, said in an interview on CNBC earlier on Thursday. Mnuchin was the first to say that Trump would forgive the loans.
Although Trump has said he has "unlimited" personal wealth to fund his White House run, a Reuters review of his financial disclosures suggests he does not have enough cash to see his campaign through to Election Day.
Gaylord Hughey, a Texas-based fundraiser supporting Trump, called Trump's decision to forgive the loans "unprecedented."
"I think it indicates that he’s all in and he wants every dollar to be spent toward a successful campaign for the general election," Hughey said.
Hughey, who as a bundler collects donations from other supporters, said Trump was broadening the pool of donors in addition to gaining support from people who historically donate to Republicans.
"We’ve had new folks come in as major donors unexpectedly," Hughey said.
Mnuchin also told CNBC that Trump had seen a strong uptick in fundraising in the past week.
He said Trump raised about $10 million in conjunction with the Republican Party at fundraising events this week. Trump also raised $6 million through online donations, Mnuchin said, following the wealthy New York businessman's first attempt to appeal to supporters to contribute to his campaign.
“We've really ramped up the effort this month," Mnuchin said.
Supporters began worrying on Monday after Trump's campaign revealed weak fundraising totals. He began June far behind Clinton, who had a $42 million war chest to start the month.
Candidates need a hefty bank account to fund a presidential bid, including hundreds of millions of dollars for television advertising and staff. Trump has benefited from extensive media coverage but could be buried in attack ads if he lacks the funds to push his own message.
Mnuchin said Trump's numbers at the beginning of June were "irrelevant" because his fundraising efforts for the general election only started recently.
JOINT FUNDRAISING ACCOUNT
Trump funded his campaign for the Republican nomination largely through his own personal wealth, putting money into his campaign in the form of loans. By leaving them as loans, he would be entitled to seek repayment from his campaign.
By converting the loans into contributions, Trump is telling his supporters he will not seek repayment via contributions. There are no legal limits on how much candidates can contribute to their own campaigns, in contrast to caps on how much an individual, company or group can give.
Trump only began fundraising in earnest at the end of May. His campaign has said that donations have been "pouring in" since he started seeking contributions.
On Tuesday, Trump attended a dinner fundraiser in Manhattan, where the attendees included billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge Capital and hedge fund manager John Paulson. Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets football team, hosted a breakfast fundraiser for Trump at a restaurant in the city.
Trump's campaign was working to quickly raise large sums via a joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee and several state Republican parties.
A presidential candidate can only accept up to $5,400 from an individual donor. The joint fundraising agreement allows Trump to accept checks as high as $450,000. The donations are then divided up between the campaign and the state funds.
That money is then used to hire staff and contact voters in battleground states, efforts intended to help elect Trump and other Republicans running for office. Such states are hotly contested because their voters can swing either to Republicans or Democrats and play a decisive role in White House contests.
(Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Richard Valdmanis, Emily Flitter, Lawrence Delevingne and Mike Segar.; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)