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Donald Trump’s campaign rallies routinely attract thousands of supporters to hear the New York billionaire’s populist message and dozens of merchants peddling unofficial Trump campaign gear.

The merchant tents lined up outside of Trump rallies have begun to resemble flea markets, with Trumprenuers hocking Trump apparel that’s mostly made in China, Mexico, Vietnam, Honduras and other countries.

Ed Landmichl, a Trump supporter from Chicago, decided the foreign-made Trump clothing runs counter to Trump’s campaign about the need to put “America first.” Landmichl is selling triangle-shaped T-pins that resemble the pins that Trump’s children and campaign staff wear for Secret Service agents to distinguish them from reporters, event staff and supporters at public events.

After seeing Donald Trump Jr. wearing a pin, Landmichl realized no one was selling them.

“This is America, a country of doers,” Landmichl said Wednesday while marketing his pins and shirts outside of Trump’s Toledo rally. “If it doesn’t exist, go make it.”

The “T” pins are manufactured in North Attleborough, Mass.

Landmichl also is selling T-shirts with the “T” symbol on the pins that are made of organic cotton from South Carolina and vegetable inks from Ohio. The shirts are woven in Los Angeles and screen-printed in Chicago, he said.

“This vote in November is an important vote, but people have to change their habits and check their labels,” Landmichl said.

The self-dubbed “Mr. T-Pin” acknowledged the criticism of Trump for preaching a pro-American manufacturing agenda while having his Donald J. Trump Collection clothing and apparel made overseas.

“I don’t have any control over Donald Trump,” Landmichl said. “But I’m a man on a mission, instead of a man who’s just selling stuff.”

Snyder’s ‘significant’ ad buy

Gov. Rick Snyder this week launched what a spokeswoman called a “significant” series of ads touting the state’s economic comeback, his own leadership and six Republicans running to return or join the state House of Representatives.

But the initial ad buy does not appear all that large, said Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, who has reviewed early station filings.

“Most of it is going to be done on cable,” he said. “I’d estimate maybe $200,000 to $300,000. Across six House districts, that isn’t really that significant.”

Bettina Inclan, a spokeswoman for the governor’s initiative, declined to discuss specific dollar figures on the ad purchase, which is part of a larger coordinated media campaign with Snyder’s political action committee that includes direct mail and online content in target House districts.

“We don’t discuss strategy, other than to say it’s a significant buy in the six figures,” Inclan reiterated Wednesday.

The ads are certainly significant because of the vehicle Snyder is using to pay for them, said Mauger, whose group generally supports campaign finance reforms.

The governor is funding the ad buy through a nonprofit that is not required to disclose donors. A 2013 law he signed ensured that donor disclosure is not required for groups airing so-called “issue ads” in the state, contradicting his stance as a candidate in 2010.

“The public deserves to know who’s seeking to influence our top elected official through financial contributions,” Mauger said. “ ... And if the governor and his team are trying to influence the election of these candidates, the donations should be disclosed.”

Snyder does now voluntarily disclose donors to a separate nonprofit he maintains. But Making Government Accountable, established as he flirted with a presidential run in early 2015, does not.

“Making Government Accountable funds are spent in accordance with its mission, and it reports all its activity in accordance with state and federal laws,” Inclan said.

Economist looking for votes

Laurence Kotlikoff is an economist running for president to fix the nation’s and Detroit’s financial problems, but Michigan voters won’t see him on their Nov. 8 ballot.

Still, write-in votes for Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, are not wasted votes. Michigan will officially count any votes for him and two other registered write-in candidates.

The 65-year-old Massachusetts resident said he is running to make systemic reforms to the country’s finances, which include an overall $199 trillion “fiscal gap” of unfunded liabilities going seven decades into the future.

“I’ve been watching the slow demise of our country ever since I became an economist,” he said in a recent phone interview. “... The country is literally broke, and that fiscal gap has to be eliminated.”

Kotlikoff isn’t a normal reformer. He is a renowned expert for co-writing a book titled “Get What’s Yours” on how it takes a special computer program to calculate maximum benefits from the Social Security Administration.

The social program for the elderly technically won’t go into the red for about two decades, but he said the underfinancing of Social Security is even worse than the woefully underfunded Detroit pension system that helped send the Motor City into bankruptcy in 2013.

The spending promises are the result of politicians who have been willing to take money away from future generations to get elected, Kotlikoff said.

“For six decades, I have seen them selling out their kids in order to get voted in by the older generations,” said the co-author of the 2012 MIT Press book, “The Clash of Generations.”

Kotlikoff proposes an 11-point plan that would freeze the existing Social Security system. It would require all workers under 60 to pay 10 percent of their wages into “Personal Security Accounts” in addition to the 12.4 percent they and their employers pay in Social Security taxes because that’s how much politicians have overpromised on elderly benefits.

Kotlikoff has a similar outside-the-box approach to further reviving Michigan’s manufacturing industry. He notes that the United States has the highest marginal tax on corporations, but it has so many loopholes that it generates little revenue.

“I want to make the tax rate 0 percent so companies come here in droves, and open up closed factories in Detroit,” he said, adding that food stamps could be offered for free in cities to encourage more people to move here.

Kotlikoff takes a political dig when asked why he is preferable to the more recognized Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

“We won’t pick someone who is for no government and someone who is for all government,” he said.

Contributors: Chad Livengood and Richard Burr

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