Political spending at President Donald Trump’s U.S. businesses has dramatically increased since he announced his run for office in 2015, according to a new report by government watchdog group Public Citizen first obtained by McClatchy.
During Trump’s presidential campaign and the first 15 months of his presidency, according to the report, political groups and federal agencies have spent at least $15.1 million at Trump properties. The Trump campaign itself spent the biggest amount — nearly 90 percent, or roughly $13.4 million.
The $15.1 million figure includes more than $717,000 from the Republican National Committee; $595,000 from the RNC and Trump campaign’s joint fundraising committee; and $9,000 from the National Republican Senate Committee.
Two powerful political action committees — American First Action, a PAC dedicated to electing federal candidates who support Trump’s agenda, and Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence’s group — spent $33,000 and $24,000 at Trump properties, respectively.
The increased spending appears to be a direct result of Trump’s newly found political capital. According to the report, political spending during 2013 and 2014 at Trump properties was just less than $20,000.
And the $15.1 million number may not even represent the full amount of what these political groups have spent at Trump properties or businesses. Groups like Public Citizen and Property of the People have resorted to gathering information through public records requests and Federal Election Commission data because there is no central place to find out just how much the current administration is spending at Trump-owned properties.
The conflict of interest violations involving politics and Trump properties are numerous and far reaching.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington, for example, served as the venue for a fundraiser for Mike Pence’s brother’s congressional race earlier this year.
The Kuwaiti embassy, which had previously hosted its independence day parties at the Four Seasons for 10 years in a row, made the decision to host their 2017 and 2018 receptions at Trump’s D.C. hotel.
In June of 2017, the hotel raked in $270,000 from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during their government officials’ stay at the hotel.
Since 2015, political groups and federal agencies have spent $498,149 at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private club in West Palm Beach, Florida. The club doubled its membership fee to $200,000 following Trump’s election.
In February, the Trump Organization announced it had donated all profits stemming from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. New updates to the Treasury Department website, however, notes that the department only received $96,506.55 in the month of February, suggesting the Trump Organization hadn’t entirely kept its promise.
Rather than divest from his businesses, Trump has placed his assets into a “blind trust” consisting of his two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., who oversee the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization. In spite of this, Trump is “definitely still involved” in his hotel business. As ProPublica reported in 2017, a lawyer for the Trump Organization confirmed that the president has access to the trust and can pull money from it whenever he wants without disclosing it to the public.