Trump Has Now Shifted $1.7 Million From Campaign Donors To His Private Business
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.”
The Trump Corporation, another one of the president’s companies, collected $65,000 from the Trump campaign in the first nine months of 2019, more than it did during all of 2018. Campaign filings list those expenses as “legal and IT consulting.” It is not clear why the Trump Organization is charging the campaign for such things or why the expenses increased since 2018.
There are additional questions about money flowing into Trump Plaza LLC, which collects roughly $3,850 in monthly rent, according to the filings. Trump Plaza LLC controls a property on Third Avenue in New York City, which includes 128 parking spaces, seven storefronts and eight residential units. It’s a mystery what the campaign is renting there, although a former member of Trump’s 2016 team previously told Forbes that staffers sometimes crashed at an apartment on the premises.
One high-profile property that did not take in much money during the first nine months of 2019? The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Forbes found just $761 of expenditures there from January through September 2019. Over the same period in 2018, the Trump campaign doled out more than $30,000 at the hotel. Not that the business is going without customers. The Republican National Committee, for example, spent more than $35,000 there from January to September.
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