President Donald Trump is continuing to profit from campaigning, new Federal Election Commission disclosures filed on Friday show. In the first quarter of 2017, Trump’s 2020 campaign and party committees spent close to $500,000 at Trump brand properties, according to a tabulation by the Wall Street Journal.
According to the filings, the campaign spent more than $6.3 million in the first quarter of 2017. Six percent of that was spent at Trump properties, including nearly $300,000 in rent to Trump Tower, where the campaign is headquartered, nearly $60,000 for lodging at Trump’s West Palm Beach golf course, and almost $14,000 in rental and catering fees at his Las Vegas hotel.
The campaign also spent heavily in businesses owned by other top Trump-connected figures. $1.5 million went to a web-marketing firm owned by campaign digital director Brad Parscale. Parscale now works for a nonprofit aimed at promoting the administration’s agenda. Some money also went to a company owned by White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon — nearly $30,000 for administrative and secretarial services.
The Trump campaign is legally required to pay market price for services, even at Trump-owned properties. It’s incredibly unusual, however, for a president to also own and profit from the businesses their campaign is patronizing. Despite the advice of the government’s independent ethics office and ethics experts, Trump has refused to divest from ownership of his businesses.
Trump’s share of the profits from his businesses are currently paid into a revocable trust, managed by his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and a longtime family attorney. The trust is broadly structured so that Trump can draw funds from it it at any time, at will. In practical terms, that means it’s not much of a trust at all, and is hardly a meaningful barrier between Trump the president and Trump the businessman.
It also means that profits from Trump campaign spending at his properties is funneled into his own pockets.
It’s a continuation of Trump’s spending habits during the campaign: over the course of the 2016 election, more than $14 million from the RNC and Trump campaign went to Trump businesses and to reimbursing his family for travel expenses.
And as president, Trump has continued to heavily patronize his own properties for recreation, most notably his club at Mar A Lago, which he visits near weekly. His presidential visits have coincided with a doubling of fees for club membership to $200,ooo annually, and have cost the Secret Service thousands in golf cart rental fees.
Trump filed his paperwork for reelection the day of his inauguration, enabling him to keep fundraising continuously. The move has paid off handsomely: the Trump campaign raised more than $3 million in the first quarter, with the majority coming from small donors.