As the 2020 presidential election draws looms, President Donald Trump, a billionaire, STILL has not contributed one dime to his campaign, rather he has funded it through supporters around the country.
Meanwhile, according to the latest federal filings, Trump’s own companies profit because he charges the campaign for rent and consulting and other expenses.
In fact, since January 20, 2017, he has moved $1.9 million of donor money into his campaign.
Karl Sandstrom, who served as commissioner of Federal Election Commission from 1998-2002, said, “This is a man, who when he first said he was going to run for office, was saying that he was going to do this all out of his own pocket… And now he’s taking money from others and putting it in his pocket.”
“This is a man, who when he first said he was going to run for office, was saying that he was going to do this all out of his own pocket… And now he’s taking money from others and putting it in his pocket.”Karl Sandstrom
A year ago, Forbes first reported that at that point, Trump had already taken over a million dollars in this manner and since that time the amount has just grown.
The leading Trump-owned business that has taken in the most cash is Trump Tower Commercial LLC, which houses office and retail spaces in the presidents NYC building.
The Republican National Committee has worked with the campaign and paid out an additional $225,000 from September 2017 to January 2018. Out of the $1.5 million that Trump Tower Commercial received from the campaign and the RNC combined, $113,000 came from the last few months of last year.
This year’s reports aren’t in yet but we can speculate they are just continuing to grow.
Another business entity named the Trump Corp., also owned by the president, has raked in $259,000 from the campaign since Trump announced his intent to run in January 2017.
Financial reports say the corporation is a “management company” and FEC filings show it is charging his campaign for legal and IT consulting although it remains unclear whether or not that is accurate. Even if that is true, there is some speculation as to why his reelection campaign should be relying on a “management company” for legal or technology services.
The Trump International Hotel in D.C. is the next-biggest beneficiary. It is the president’s residence outside of the White House and has taken in $126,000 of campaign money according to FEC filings.
The campaign also moved about $60,000 to a business called the Trump Hotel Collection in the final three months of last year.
Campaign funds also went to Trump Plaza LLC, another Trump owned business in Manhattan which houses a parking garage, retail, and residential space. Trump Plaza LLC has taken in $84,000 from the campaign in expenses listed as “rent.” But the reelection campaign doesn’t appear to be using any of those spaces. In fact, in November 2018, a reporter stood outside of the buildings for 14 hours to ask residents if they had witnessed any sign of a campaign at those locations and they had not.
Trump Restaurants also took in money from the campaign. Apparently it is charging the campaign to rent a souvenir stand in the basement of Trump Tower. The campaign pays $3,000 a month to that entity, more per sq. foot than Gucci pays in that same building.
As much of a bad taste as this might leave in one’s mouth, all of these transactions do appear to be legal. A Trump campaign official issued a general statement: “The campaign pays fair-market value under negotiated rental agreements and other service agreements in compliance with the law… The campaign works closely with campaign counsel to ensure strict compliance in this regard.”
In contrast to Sandstrom, Bradley Smith, a Republican who served as an FEC commissioner from 2000 to 2005, didn’t seem concerned about the payments, saying, “There’s no problem, so to speak, doing business with yourself, as long as you’re not giving yourself some kind of super-favorable deal that the public can’t get.”
Even IF rules were being broken, it is clear that not a lot could be done about it right now. The FEC examines this type of thing and requires at least four of its six commissioners to vote and since Trump has been in office, three of those commissioners have relinquished their posts. And their seats, which are filled by presidential appointments and Senate confirmations, remain empty.
Ann Ravel is one of those commissioners who left her post in March 2017 and she said, “They can’t even meet without four members, because four is a quorum… They cannot ask the general counsel’s office to investigate anything. So if a complaint comes in, it will just sit there.”