Boxes began arriving in early November at the Phoenix headquarters of Turning Point USA, a conservative student group with ties to the Trump family.
They contained copies of the new book by Donald Trump Jr., “Triggered,” according to a person who works in the building. The stockpile grew to roughly 2,000 copies, stored in an underused second-floor office under a poster bearing a slogan: “Capitalism Not Cronyism.”
Turning Point is not the only conservative group making bulk purchases to aid Trump’s new career as an author. At least nine Republican organizations, GOP candidates or advocacy groups are selling “Triggered” or promoting Trump’s book tour, according to emails obtained by The New York Times, interviews and disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The president’s son has emerged over the past few years as a political star in his own right, often said to be considering a run for office. It is neither illegal nor uncommon for candidates and political organizations to use books in fundraising drives: The National Republican Campaign Committee, for example, has also sold its donors titles by former House Speakers Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan.
But the breadth of the Republican establishment’s effort behind Trump is striking for a noncandidate whose most significant claim to fame remains his parentage, and who has sought to deflect criticism of his recent attacks on impeachment witnesses by asserting that he is merely a “private citizen.” And it underscores the unusual cross-pollination between the Trump family’s political ambitions, its business ventures and the party President Donald Trump now leads.
Some groups are harnessing the younger Trump’s popularity to raise political donations while also driving his sales. The NRCC bought $75,000 worth of books in November, a spokesman said, in a promotion that took in almost $200,000 in contributions. The National Republican Senatorial Committee ordered about 2,500 copies, which it said sold almost immediately.
The Republican National Committee and Citizens United, a conservative activist group run by a former deputy campaign manager to the president, are also offering the book to donors.
Earlier this month, the RNC denied making large bulk purchases of the book, a practice that some bestseller lists, including that of The Times, may penalize authors for when ranking sales. But FEC records released last week showed that it spent almost $100,000 on copies Oct. 29, a transaction the committee acknowledged was part of its “Triggered” promotion.
Turning Point declined to discuss exactly how many copies the group had bought. But in a statement, a spokesman noted that Donald Trump Jr. would be a featured speaker at the group’s student summit in Florida in December.
“When an author headlines a Turning Point USA event, we regularly purchase the author’s latest work for the students in our chapters who attend,” the spokesman said. “As one of our most requested speakers, Don is headlining our student-leadership conference in Florida this December, and so we purchased copies for some of the students, chapter leaders and VIPs.”
Politicians closely allied with the president are also promoting his son’s book. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., used his campaign list to promote a ticketed event on Trump’s book tour where the two men appeared together. The campaign committee for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House minority leader, has offered copies to those who donate $35.
“Leader McCarthy shares a close relationship with Donald Trump Jr. and was thrilled to offer ‘Triggered’ to his campaign supporters,” said Drew Florio, a spokesman.
State Republican parties are also pushing the book, framing Trump’s tour as a campaign effort on his father’s behalf. The GOP organizations in Arizona and Texas advertised tour stops in emails to supporters. The Times obtained copies of the promotions from CounterAction, a digital intelligence firm.
In Texas, where Trump headlined various fundraisers, the party bought copies of “Triggered” to give “as a gift to each of the attendees,” according to the communications director for the state party.
“Kimberly and I chose Texas as one of our early stops because we know how important it is for 2020,” Trump wrote in a message distributed to Texas Republicans, referring to his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. “Democrats have their eyes on the Lone Star State and are willing to stop at nothing to silence conservatives and turn Texas blue.”
Party committees and candidates generally must report disbursements made to purchase books for donors, as the RNC did. If no fundraising is involved, they must obtain fair market value if someone uses the lists to promote their private business interests.
Bulk purchasing — some of it deliberately covert — is fairly common but still controversial in the publishing industry. Bestseller lists, like that of The Times, try to police the practice.
The Times, for instance, uses a dagger symbol to indicate bulk purchases. When “Triggered” debuted at No. 1 on the Times list, some observers were quick to point out that it was marked with a dagger.
And on occasion, The Times has removed a title from its bestseller list when evidence emerged that sales did not meet its standards for inclusion. A Times spokeswoman said there were no plans to reassess the presence of “Triggered” on the list.
A spokesman for Trump, Andy Surabian, said in a statement that any bulk buys were irrelevant to the book’s position on the list.
“In its opening week, ‘Triggered’ outsold its closest competition by roughly 40,000 copies and clearly would have been No. 1 on the NYT list without the copies sold thru the RNC and other GOP-aligned organizations,” Surabian said. “Don is proud of the fact that the demand for ‘Triggered’ has been so high that it has allowed groups like the RNC, NRSC and the NRCC to net hundreds of thousands of dollars through their marketing of the book.”
When asked about big orders of “Triggered,” Trump’s publisher, Hachette Book Group, acknowledged that it had made sales to some nonretail organizations and noted that outlets might have sold the book in bulk. But it said it had no record of direct purchases by Turning Point.
Pictures provided to The Times, however, showed dozens of boxes of “Triggered” stacked in Turning Point’s office. At least some had shipped from a Hachette distribution center in Indiana.
There is little question Trump enjoys a substantial natural audience for “Triggered,” an extended screed against the American left. The book argues that liberals suffer from a victim complex and attacks immigrants in the country illegally, among others.
Data shows that during the first two weeks of November, he sold tens of thousands of copies in areas where he made tour stops, including at Trump properties in Las Vegas and Washington.
Given his prominence on the national stage and Hachette’s significant promotional campaign, the book would almost certainly have reached the bestseller lists even without bulk sales.
“Triggered” sold 115,067 copies through the week ending Nov. 16, the most recent for which figures are available, according to NPD BookScan. The book also hit No. 1 on The Washington Post’s nonfiction bestseller list and appeared in the top 10 of Amazon’s.
Trump appears to have been closely attuned to the public-relations coup of notching the top spot on the bestseller lists of newspapers his family routinely attacks.
“Can you imagine the Editor of The Failing New York Times, waking up one morning, having to put ‘Triggered’ by Donald Trump Jr. as the NUMBER ONE BOOK IN AMERICA?” Trump wrote in one marketing email.
That is not how the process works. Instead, The Times’ lists draw on sales data provided by a range of retailers.
Some publishing executives argue that authors who benefit from bulk purchases have an unfair advantage over writers who rely on organic sales. The visibility that comes with the bestseller list can have a huge effect on an author’s royalties, speaking fees and future publishing advances.
“The fact that it is preventing other authors from getting the recognition that they should rightfully be receiving is a bit unfair,” said Morgan Entrekin, publisher and chief executive of Grove Atlantic.
The purchase by Turning Point is an example of the mutually beneficial relationship between Trump and political allies he and his father have attracted.
Once a relatively minor organization, Turning Point has had a surge in prominence in recent years, bolstered by a close relationship with the Trumps. The group’s founder, Charlie Kirk, worked for the younger Trump during the 2016 campaign. Last year, the group received $50,000 from America First Policies, a pro-Trump organization where Guilfoyle has served as a vice chairwoman.
Trump has appeared at several Turning Point events. At one in California, he and Guilfoyle left early after being shouted down — not by liberals, but by far-right supporters who were angry he would not take questions, according to The Guardian.
In the latest Times bestseller list, released Wednesday night, Trump lost the top spot, dropping to No. 2 among nonfiction books.
The week’s top seller was another title from Hachette: “A Warning,” by an anonymous senior Trump administration official who depicts the president as unfit for office.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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