Paid to Play
Donald Trump’s Campaign Paid $11 Million to Trump Businesses
The mogul’s vast network of hotels, restaurants, clubs, and golf courses were paid millions during his presidential campaign.
Over 17 months of stumping for the presidency, the Donald Trump campaign spent an astonishing $11,355,406 patronizing businesses bearing his name, according to a review of filings with the Federal Election Commission conducted by The Daily Beast.
That total includes payments to The Trump Corporation, The Trump Security, Trump Cafe, Trump Grill, Trump Hotel, Doral Golf Resort, Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing, LLC, The Mar a Lago Club LLC, Trump Plaza LLC, Trump International Golf Club, Trump National Golf Club, Trump Old Post Office LLC, Trump Park Avenue LLC, Trump International Hotel, Trump Restaurants, Trump SoHo, Trump Tower, TAG Air, Inc., Trump Virginia Acquisitions, LLC, Trump CPS LLC and Trump ICE LLC.
It includes rent to Trump properties, but not disbursements listed as “in-kind” rent. It also does not include $55,000 paid by the campaign to Barnes and Noble to purchase Trump’s own books at retail cost, which potentially artificially inflated his book sales.
Five dollars at the Trump Cafe in Trump Tower here. A $1,271,944 flight on a private jet there. On one occasion, $79,043 at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, $139,616 another time.
The everyday expenses of politicking while The Donald add up.
And it is a phenomenon unique to The Donald—no other presidential candidate in American history spent so much money at their own hotels, apartment buildings, restaurants, golf courses and airlines.
Not that they’ve had the option.
By law, candidates can’t profit from their campaigns—unless the campaign was paying fair market value for the goods and services purchased. Complicating matters is the fact that Trump funneled quite a bit—though not as much as he claimed—of his own money into his coffers. The result was unprecedented: a candidate putting money into his campaign, then paying his business, then potentially making a profit back.
Not that the Trump transition was eager to provide proof that they paid what any other customer would have for the luxury of the Trump brand: an inquiry from The Daily Beast about how, exactly it was determined what the campaign would spend to, for example, lodge at the Trump Hotel in Doral or dine at the restaurant in Las Vegas, went unanswered.
Of course, the Trump campaign was always a marketing exercise, a test of how strong the brand really was (quite, it turned out, in certain Rust Belt states).
From the day of his formal announcement onward, Trump often weaved sales pitches for his businesses into stump speeches and interviews about the campaign. In the beginning, his divisiveness seemed like poison for his business: Macy’s, NBC, a home decor company in Dubai and Turnberry all pulled out of deals with the Donald. But at some point, as the campaign dragged on and he began to win, it seemed to level off. By October, he appeared at the ribbon cutting ceremony for his hotel in Washington, D.C., dragging his press corp along with him for what amounted to a corporate advertisement.
Because his pitch to the country hinged on his alleged business acumen, he got away with it. He was showing voters that he could be successful for them because he was already successful for himself. In the end, it worked.
And so Trump and his staffers dined at the Trump Cafe and Trump Grill, cavernous Trump Tower dining establishments where tourists now go to gawk. There, you can get the famed taco bowl, “seasoned ground beef, pico de gallo salsa, Dago’s famous guacamole, shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheddar served in a crunchy tortilla bowl” and the Ivanka’s Salad, which is just a plain Greek salad, for $18 each.
And Trump spent millions flying in his own fleet of planes—a Boeing 757-200, featuring 24-carat gold plated seat belts, a smaller jet, and two helicopters—operated by Tag Air, Inc., where he is CEO. The bill for just June 16, 2015 was $506,846.
And hundreds of thousands at his own hotels around the country, where the TVs have a special channel that’s just a reel of Trump and his family talking about golf and Eric, the one with the weird face, talking about charity.
And hundreds of thousands more for work and living space in his luxurious, tall buildings where some staffers, like Corey Lewandowski, were given apartments.
All of this, partially on the backs of many small dollar donors who contributed to Make America Great Again.