Under the Dome

Despite bumpy start, Trump’s NC donors enjoying the ride

Trump boasts executive orders in first weekly address

In his first weekly address as president, Donald Trump rattled off the executive orders he's signed in his first week stating, "This administration has hit the ground running at a record pace."
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In his first weekly address as president, Donald Trump rattled off the executive orders he's signed in his first week stating, "This administration has hit the ground running at a record pace."

President Donald Trump may have had a tumultuous first two weeks, but that doesn’t bother Louis DeJoy.

“He’s doing great,” said the Greensboro investor. “So far he’s doing what he said he was going to do.”

DeJoy was one of Trump’s biggest N.C. donors and fundraisers. Records show he gave $111,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint committee that split money between the campaign and party groups. He gave the Republican National Committee another $273,000 to help elect Trump.

According to the Federal Election Commission, the Trump campaign raised $3.4 million in individual contributions from North Carolina, about half the $6.7 million raised by Democrat Hillary Clinton. But that doesn’t include donations to joint committees and political action committees on Trump’s behalf.

DeJoy wasn’t the president’s only top N.C. contributor.

▪ Fred Eshelman, a former pharmaceutical executive from Wilmington, gave Trump Victory $200,000.

▪ Doug Lebda, CEO of Charlotte-based Lending Tree, gave $102,615 to the Great America PAC, which spent millions on Trump’s behalf.

▪ David Schamens of Davie County, CEO of TradeStream Analytics, gave Trump Victory $42,000 and, according to an FEC report, a net $157,000 to America Comes First PAC. An amended PAC report shows the donations coming from a company associated with TradeStream.

Eshelman and Schamens did not return calls. Lebda declined comment.

Two weeks into his term, Americans are divided over Trump. A Gallup Poll released Friday showed 43 percent approve of his performance while 52 percent disapprove. Thousands have taken to the streets to protest the new administration in Washington, Charlotte and across the country.

But like DeJoy, Trump’s N.C. donors – big and small – back what he has done.

“Not a whole lot of time to really assess it, but I think he’s doing exactly whet he said he was going to do,” said Michael Kahn, owner of the Charlotte Checkers. He and his wife, Wendy, gave Trump Victory $27,500.

Michael Coltrane, a retired banker from Concord, gave the Victory fund $35,000.

“Like any president, I don’t agree with 100 percent,” Coltrane said. “But I think overall (he’s doing) pretty good. He seems to be a man of action and is trying to keep his campaign promises.”

Dan DiMicco, former chief executive of Charlotte-based Nucor Corp., America’s largest steel company, gave Trump Victory $35,000. He oversaw the transition’s work on the U.S trade representative’s post and was under consideration for the post.

“He’s doing what he said he was going to do, specifically in regard to trade and economic issues,” DiMicco said, referring to executive orders on trade and the acceleration of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects.

“There’s still a few things he wants to do and make an announcement on but because Democrats are holding up the nominees for his cabinet he doesn’t have everybody in place … He’s got to have the leadership in place … to follow through on that.”

Gary Ballard, president of EnviroServe Chemicals in Dunn and a $500 Trump donor, said the president already has helped the economy by threatening new taxes on companies that move jobs oversees. He pointed to decisions like Ford’s to abandon plans for a new plant in Mexico.

“I don’t think some of the plants talking about moving will move now, and some of the plants that have moved will come back,” said Ballard, whose company markets industrial chemicals.

Henry Browning, a retired factory supervisor from Monroe, gave Trump’s campaign $400. He likes what Trump is doing – with one caveat.

“I want him to get a little tougher on illegal immigrants,” Browning said.

Retired Gastonia physician Perry Aycock said Trump has been criticized unfairly for blocking immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries for at least 90 days.

“Everybody talks about it being a ban, I think it’s more like a moratorium,” Aycock said, “until they can make sure they find people with bad intents.”

State Democratic Party spokesman Mike Gwin downplayed such responses. “Count me as unsurprised that President Trump’s wealthiest donors are happy with the direction he’s taking the country,” he said. “It’s clear already that Trump’s policies … favor the wealthy and well-connected over the middle-class.”

Winston-Salem businessman Ed Broyhill, one of Trump’s top N.C. fundraisers, gave the Victory fund $25,000. He said any presidential controversies can be chalked up to inexperience.

“If the American public are all in a panic about all the rhetoric going on, the only reason is because Donald Trump is not a politician,” Broyhill said. “I can tell you one thing, change is coming. And people don’t like change.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

Trump’s top North Carolina donors

Here are 10 North Carolinians who appear to have given the most to President Donald Trump’s joint fundraising committee or other groups on his behalf.

1. Fredric Eshelman, Wilmington: $200,000 to Trump Victory.

2. David Schamens, Advance: $42,000 to Trump Victory and what appears to be $157,000 to America Comes First PAC.

3. Louis DeJoy, Greensboro: $111,000 to Trump Victory.

4. Doug Lebda, Charlotte: $102,615 to Great America PAC.

5. Dan Dimicco, Charlotte: $35,000 to Trump Victory.

6. Michael Coltrane, Concord: $35,000 to Trump Victory.

7. John Whitacre, Winston-Salem: $35,000 to Trump Victory.

8. Michael and Wendy Kahn, Charlotte: $27,500 to Trump Victory.

9. Ron Howard, Denver: $27,000 to Trump Victory.

10. Paul Wilson, Mooresville: $27,000 to Trump Victory.

Source: Federal Election Commission