Most of America suspected there was some ulterior motive behind Donald Trump’s run for president in a bid most considered “unlikely.” According to the Federal Election Commission, it looks as though that motive was filling his wallet.
The FEC report shows that millions of dollars meant for Donald Trump’s campaign were filtered into his business ventures, including two million to Trump Tower Commercial LLC for rent, utilities and wages. From the time Trump launched his presidential bid, money began flowing into his many businesses. POLITICO reported Wednesday that:
‘Everything from office suites and hotel stays to payroll, security and office supplies [was paid for by Trump’s campaign].’
The concerns over conflicts of interest revolving around Trump never end, it seems. The level to which his businesses and politics were integrated was unprecedented, according to the report.
It is true however that Donald Trump contributed $66 million of his own pocket money into the campaign, and that campaigns are legally required to charge fair-market value for anything acquired or used. That said, given the breadth of Donald Trump’s business ventures, he essentially exploited this regulation and his right to chose where press conferences etc. were held, to make bank.
According to the regulations, this does include businesses which the campaign heads or candidates own. So while not directly in violation of campaign rules, this flood of money is certainly in violation of normal ethical and moral standards.
There is also the issue of whether or not Trump businesses were reimbursed above and beyond fair-market value. Due to pitifully limited information provided about the financial and legal structures of Trump’s business ventures it is nearly impossible to determine how much excess was leaked back to his personal account.
While the details are being combed through, things certainly smell fishy.
Among the Trump businesses that benefited directly from his campaign are: his new Pennsylvania Avenue hotel minutes from the White House, Mar-A-Lago Palm Beach mansion, Eric Trump’s vineyard, Trump Virginia Acquisitions, Trump golf courses, Trump Restaurants LLC, Trump Grill, Trump Café and Trump Ice.
Trump Ice?! Trump Ice, otherwise known as Trump Natural Springwater was paid $3,400 for meeting “beverages… and office supplies.”
“Facility rental, catering and lodging” seems to be his go-to excuse for the money funneling in to various businesses, with a total of just over 1.3 million going towards this purpose. Specifically, $37,000 went to his Washington hotel and more than $400,000 to Trump hotels overall, $435,000 to Mar-A-Lago and $398,000 to his golf courses. $32,000 was paid to Eric Trump’s vineyard and $2,300 went to Trump Virginia Acquisitions.
An additional $78,703 went to “meals and catering” alone at Trump Restaurants LLC, Trump Grill and Trump Café. That is excluding $141,000 that was paid to the Trump restaurant company for rent and utilities. Whether rent and utilities end up being an acceptable use of campaign funds remains to be seen.
According to the FEC, Donald Trump even paid his own family for appearances. Donald Jr., Eric Trump and his wife Lara went on some kind of lovely spending bender totaling $56,000 for which they were reimbursed by the campaign. This cost was claimed to be associated with “travel and meal expenses” above and beyond what Trump had already funneled out the campaign for those purposes.
The campaign reported paying the hotel about $37,000 for facility rental, catering and lodging, according to FEC data, which shows total payments to Trump hotels of more than $400,000.
The grand total of money that went to Trump’s businesses from his campaign is estimated around $12.8 million.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of this saga of financial and political conflicts for Donald Trump. We know this because Trump refused to follow the advice of ethical governing bodies and did not properly divest from his business holdings for the presidency.