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Of all the presidential candidates, there's only one who claims to have all the money he needs to run - Donald Trump. Just how much money Trump has depends on who you ask. And that matters because presidential campaigns are now so expensive. He's competing against candidates who raise money as well as so-called superPACs that are independent from the candidates and can raise even more. Today, the superPACs have to reveal how much they've raised so far. Trump's financing will only become more apparent over time. Here's NPR's Peter Overby.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Let's start with the numbers. Trump says his net worth exceeds $10 billion. He made the point when he announced his candidacy last month.
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DONALD TRUMP: I don't need anybody's money.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.
TRUMP: 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.
OVERBY: Some analysts come up with smaller numbers. Forbes magazine says he's worth 4 billion. Bloomberg News this week put him at 2.9 billion. Trump promptly shot down that number on CNN.
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TRUMP: They don't know what I have. I'm a private company. They have no idea what I have.
OVERBY: How much he has might really matter given what a presidential campaign costs these days. In 2012, Mitt Romney's team spent $391 million before the nomination and more than 1 billion overall. John Green is a political scientist at the University of Akron. He dissected the campaign finances of the 2012 primaries. He says that even if the lower reports of Trump's net worth are accurate...
JOHN GREEN: He could probably spend as much money as all of the candidates combined. In the past, that gave self-financed candidates a - great advantages. It's not so true anymore because of the rise of the superPACs.
OVERBY: SuperPACs are working alongside nearly all of the presidential campaigns. But unlike campaigns, the superPACs don't abide by any contribution limits.
GREEN: Many of Trump's rivals for the Republican nomination are not as wealthy as him, but have friends who are as wealthy and can help those candidates stay in the race, perhaps going dollar for dollar, toe to toe with Donald Trump's personal wealth.
OVERBY: Still, Trump's personal money would be better. One big reason is TV advertising. Trump, as the candidate, gets discounted rates for ad time. SuperPACs pay market price. Another question though is stamina. Historically, self-financed candidates are successful businessmen, people who end up regarding a long, drawn-out campaign as an investment gone bad. And right now, it looks like next year's Republican primaries could drag out well into the spring. Elizabeth Wilner is a vice president with Kantar Media, which tracks political advertising. She says it's possible Trump would get tired of shoveling more and more cash into TV.
ELIZABETH WILNER: For someone like him who's used to seeing results quickly, you know, and being able to sort of compel results by sheer force of will and business techniques, this could be an unusually long process.
OVERBY: The Trump campaign didn't respond to interview requests for this story. But for now, the Trump campaign is actually generating a little revenue for the Trump business empire. The campaign's first disclosure to the Federal Election Commission shows it paid the Trump organization $38,000 for the campaign kickoff event. It also paid for rent and lodging in Trump properties and travel on Trump-owned airplanes - in all, about half a million dollars over three months. Trump's personal wealth notwithstanding, there's also a Trump superPAC. It's called Make America Great Again, a name trademarked by Donald Trump. We should find out in today's filings if the superPAC is paying him royalties to use it. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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