Political groups and federal agencies have spent at least $15 million with Donald Trump’s businesses, according to a new report from McClatchy. The spending occurred during the Trump presidential campaign and the first 15 months of his presidency.
The expenditures of political contributions and government money went to many different Trump businesses, including his hotels and resorts, his golf courses, and even his water company.
In 2013 and 2014, political and governmental spending at his properties was under $20,000. The real money came from Trump’s campaign itself which spent $13.4 million on his own businesses, 90% of the total.
Political expenditures included over $717,000 from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and nearly $600,000 from Trump Victory, the fundraising group established by the RNC and Trump’s campaign.
The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and two political action committees, America First Action, and Great America Committee, (Vice President Mike Pence’s group) also spent large amounts of money benefiting Trump’s businesses.
The information on spending comes from Federal Election Commission data and federal agency records obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests by Public Citizen and Property of the People, groups comprised of legal experts and activists.
The total amount of money that has been spent benefiting Trump and his family is probably much more than is being reported here. That’s because the information comes from many different sources. There is not just one place where we can find out how much has been spent at Trump businesses.
Thanks to the watchdog groups, however, federal agencies are now making available financial records in response to freedom of information requests.
Many people demanded that Trump divest his business interests to avoid apparent and actual conflicts of interest. This would have been the ethical thing to do (as would his releasing his tax returns).
Trump of course has refused to do this. He did, however, put his business assets in a specially designed trust to be held for his “exclusive benefit.” He receives all the benefits from the trust and can revoke the trust at any time. It is not a “blind trust” in that Trump knows very well what businesses and properties are in it. And he knows how much he benefits from political and government spending at these businesses and properties.
Trump has visited one of his business properties 138 days since he became president in January of last year. Those presidential visits of course have resulted in large amounts of government spending for his benefit. The U.S. Secret Service alone has spent $65,000 at Trump businesses.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-Calif. will soon be introducing legislation that will prohibit the spending of taxpayer money at properties owned by the holder of an public office if such spending would result in a profit to the officeholder. This makes great sense as a way to avoid corruption and self-dealing. But Trump does not want to avoid these things.
“Trump has raised the art of the self-deal to unprecedented heights, enriching himself at the expense of taxpayers,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “This requires a legislative response.”