Judging by campaign filings, Randy Treibel, a business owner from Redmond, Wash., looks like a big donor to the presidential campaigns of Republican Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
He’s plowed thousands of dollars into each man’s campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records.
But as The Atlantic recently uncovered, the former professional poker player isn’t signaling his political support. Instead, he’s making money — by scooping up Sanders and Trump buttons, hats and other merchandise and re-selling it at a big profit.
Treibel told The Atlantic’s Russell Berman that a $10 Trump sign can fetch $35 on Amazon. “People will buy it, he said. “Amazon customers are generally affluent and irrational, and they just want it quick.”
Berman’s re-sale operation is perfectly legal. But the campaigns themselves could run afoul of rules that impose a $2,700 cap on what an individual can donate to a candidate for a primary or general election. For FEC purposes, the purchase of campaign swag counts as a campaign contribution.
Campaign records show Trump and Sanders already have begun to refund Treibel for excessive contributions – a move that only boosts his profit margins. In a two-month period, Sanders’ campaign sent back more than $11,700 to Treibel to avoid trouble with election regulators, FEC filings show.
But it looks like Team Trump may have landed on a strategy to curb Treibel's profits.
Treibel said a Trump marketing representative called him recently and informed him that future merchandise sales would be handled by a super PAC. Super PACs face no contribution limits, so the refunds to Treibel would end.