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New Jersey store credits Trump group for helping save business via book purchases

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  • President Trump’s campaign and the RNC paid $106,000 to a New Jersey bookstore for highly-discounted copies of a book by Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw.
  • The store owner told Insider the money was crucial for keeping him in business during the coronavirus pandemic. “It helped us pay the staff, the rent, the insurance and keep the lights on,” Books & Greetings owner Kenny Sarfin said.
  • Campaign committees are increasingly making bulk book purchases to help juice sales numbers and propel politicos’ writings onto bestseller lists.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When President Donald Trump on Friday declared himself the “ultimate member of The Book of the Month Club,” he directed the sarcastic chide at both his niece Mary Trump and former national security adviser John Bolton, whose decidedly anti-Trump tomes are selling by the hundreds of thousands.

But don’t entirely dismiss Trump’s literary patronage. The president may have single-handedly — if unwittingly — saved an independent bookstore struggling to survive in a suburban strip mall.

Federal records show Trump Make America Great Again, a fundraising committee jointly operated by the president’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, made a $106,000 purchase on May 28 at Books & Greetings of Northvale, New Jersey.

While the Trump campaign didn’t detail what book it bought or how many, Books & Greetings owner Kenny Sarfin told Insider the Trump committee purchased “highly discounted” copies of “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage,” written by Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw and released in April. The sale follows an earlier, $400,000 order of Crenshaw’s book by the National Republican Campaign Committee, as first reported by Politico.

The Trump committee’s purchase is nothing short of financial salvation, Sarfin said, noting the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to close his brick-and-mortar operation for three months.

“It helped us pay the staff, the rent, the insurance and keep the lights on,” he said, noting his shop is again open to customers. “It was a terrific sale. We were happy to help them.”

Sarfin attributes Books & Greetings’ payday to his good relationship with Grand Central Publishing, which published Crenshaw’s book under one of its imprints, Twelve. The Trump campaign did not reply to several messages.

Indie bookstores aren’t the usual beneficiaries 

Prominent conservative political committees are increasingly making bulk book purchases, using titles such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Trump and the American Future” as fundraising incentives and supporter gifts. 

These purchases also juice sales numbers that help propel politicos’ books onto bestsellers lists — a potential marketing coup. (Of late, some best-seller list editors have dinged books that heavily rely on bulk sales, with the New York Times noting its editors “scrutinize sales reports with a practiced eye to uncovering manipulation.”)

While political committee book purchases are en vogue, it’s rare for Republicans — or Democrats, for that matter — to purchase so much from such a mom-and-pop operation. They usually tap big chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, or as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont often does, buy direct from publishers, an Insider analysis of federal campaign spending records indicates.

The lone indie anomaly? Politics & Prose, the legendary Washington DC bookseller. The independent store has, for example, scored more than half a million dollars worth of sales this election cycle from the NRCC and National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee combined.

Federal Paycheck Protection Program loans have helped keep small businesses, including bookstores, alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. But 10 independent bookstores have already closed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer for the American Booksellers Association, a trade group for independent booksellers.

When political campaigns purchase books in bulk through an independent bookstore, they’re making “a positive difference in sustaining and creating local jobs, supporting schools and key services like first responders through local taxes, and generally keeping dollars in their communities,”

He added: “And they won’t be adding to the consequences of Amazon’s power.”

Trump, for his part, routinely trashes Amazon and the founder of the retail behemoth, billionaire Jeff Bezos. 

Over the years, Books & Greetings has hosted author events from luminaries across the political spectrum, including former Trump 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro among conservatives. The store has also hosted education activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, former Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota (before he resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment) and outspoken Trump critic Bill Nye (the science guy). 

But until now, federal records indicate Books & Greetings had never made more than a four-figure sale to a federally registered political committee. Such committees routinely measure their monthly income using seven- and eight figures.

Sarfin, who says he plans to vote in 2020, invited any politician to buy books from his store, with Democrats and Republicans both “absolutely” welcome. 

And which presidential candidate will he vote for? 

“Not sure,” he said, coyly.

 

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