The Trump campaign is spending big money at the president’s properties, according to a review of Federal Election Commission data. Yet the records show that Donald Trump still has not donated any of his own funds to the campaign. That means America’s billionaire-in-chief has shifted $1.7 million from campaign donors into his private business.
Forbes first reported on this arrangement one year ago, when documents showed that Trump’s companies had taken in $1.1 million of campaign-donor money. By the end of 2018, that figure had climbed to $1.3 million. Subsequent disclosures show that more than $450,000 flowed into the Trump empire from January to September of this year.
The biggest beneficiary has been Trump Tower Commercial LLC, which controls the president’s famous Manhattan skyscraper. Trump still owns the entity, which has accepted $1.2 million in rent from the reelection effort and another $225,000 from the Republican National Committee. Since Trump became president, an estimated 1.6% of the tower’s revenue has come from either the RNC or the reelection campaign. The majority of Trump Tower’s income comes from Gucci, which leases 49,000 square feet of prime retail space on Fifth Avenue for roughly $21 million a year.
In the basement of Trump Tower, a much smaller space now serves as an official campaign store, selling hats, T-shirts, signs and other memorabilia. The rent payments for that space could be flowing through an entity called Trump Restaurants LLC, which has taken in $87,000 of rent since Trump became president. On a price-per-square-foot basis, the campaign may be paying more for that basement space than Gucci is paying for its street-level location upstairs. Smaller spaces tend to command higher rates, but the payments have nonetheless raised eyebrows.
The disclosures reveal one payment to Tag Air Inc., an entity set up to lease the president’s personal Boeing 757. It was the first time since Trump took office—and therefore gained access to Air Force One—that the campaign paid the president’s private aviation company. The amount was small, just $2,700, and the exact rationale remains unclear.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization ignored specific questions about the expenditures, instead issuing a general statement asserting that the transactions are legal. “The campaign pays fair market value under negotiated rental agreements and other service agreements in compliance with the law,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The campaign works closely with campaign counsel to ensure strict compliance in this regard.”
Again, all this is patently illegal. Trump having his campaign spend millions at Trump properties is just a small part of his continual emoluments scam, lobbyists and government agencies are spending tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions at Trump properties, hotels, and restaurants. Just what we know of Trump's government graft should land him in prison for the rest of his life, but nobody can prosecute him in office.
And of course, nobody in the GOP will call him on it, so he gets away with it.