Donald Trump’s campaign funnels cash to Mar-a-Lago, other businesses

Donald Trump A major fundraiser for the 2024 White House campaign has sharply increased spending at the former president’s estates in recent months, diverting money to his businesses at a time when he faces… Serious legal risk And Urgent need of cash.

Trump’s joint fundraising committee wrote three checks in February and one in March to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, totaling $411,287, and another check in March to Trump National Doral Miami for $62,337, according to a report filed with the federal election. Committee this week.

Experts say federal law and Federal Election Commission regulations allow donor money to be spent on a candidate’s business as long as the campaign pays fair market value. Trump card We’ve been doing this for yearsfunneling millions of campaign funds into his sprawling business empire to pay for expenses such as Using his personal plane For political events, rentals at Trump Tower and events at his properties, which included hotels and private clubs.

While the practice is legal, some campaign finance experts believe it raises ethical concerns when a candidate generates personal revenue from running for office.

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“When voters see something like this happen, it contributes to their distrust of the political system and the motives of their elected officials,” said Shana Ports, senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit government accountability group.

Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach Wednesday, February 7, 2018.

Trump faces huge legal costs amid numerous civil and criminal cases

The money the Trump campaign is spending on his businesses could help the former president as he faces a major cash crunch.

Trump was hit with two major financial judgments after losing two civil lawsuits.

He posted $91.6 million in bonds Defamation case filed by writer E. Jean CarrollAnd bonds worth $175 million A fraud case involving falsification of business records. A New York attorney general is challenging whether Trump’s deal to roll over the larger bond payment was financially sound.

The payments the Trump campaign has made to his companies are small compared to how large they are Financial rulings ordered by the court, But it has increased in recent months.

The Trump campaign and its political committees have paid Trump-owned companies at least $4.9 million since the start of 2023, according to an analysis by USA TODAY. Most of that money — $4.1 million — went to TAG Air, Inc. For air travel.

Trump listed TAG Air, Inc. among his assets in the most recent financial disclosure required of presidential candidates, worth between $5 million and $25 million. It operates his private plane, nicknamed Trump Force One.

Trump’s various campaign committees and super PACs controlled by his supporters have also spent at least $809,000 at his properties since the beginning of last year.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters outside the Trump National Golf Club on June 13, 2023 in Bedminster, New Jersey, hours after his arraignment in Miami.

Campaign spending at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach and Doral in Miami

The bulk of campaign spending — $663,000 — has been spent on Trump properties since the start of 2023. at Mar-a-Lago, Most of them occurred in February. It’s not clear what events the money went to.

A Trump spokeswoman did not respond to specific questions about campaign spending at his properties, but instead sent an attacking statement. President Joe Biden.

Other GOP candidates have also spent large sums of campaign money on Trump properties.

Ohio Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno’s campaign spent $109,000 on “event catering” at Mar-a-Lago in April, December and January of 2023, records show. Trump endorsed Moreno in December. Moreno won the primary in March and will face three-term Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November.

Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Jim Marchant’s campaign spent about $67,000 at the Mar-a-Lago resort on “event space rental and catering” in November and December. Trump backed Marchant in his failed bid to serve as Nevada’s secretary of state in 2022. Marchant is now seeking to unseat Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in his first term.

A political action committee called Giuliani Defense spent $2,400 on fundraising expenses and food at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in January. The PAC spent $540,000 on legal fees, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Trump hosted a fundraiser to Rudy Giuliani in Bedminster in September to help with the former New York mayor’s legal costs, which stem in part from criminal charges Giuliani faces in Fulton County, Georgia, for trying to help Trump overturn the 2020 election.

Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow Inc, greets Trump supporters as they wait along former President Donald Trump's motorcade route to return to his home at Mar-a-Lago after his recall in New York on April 4, 2023.

Trump hosted a party at Mar-a-Lago on March 5 with a large group of supporters to watch the results of the Super Tuesday primaries in 16 states. he is too She held a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in October It attracted hundreds of supporters, including US Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Byron Donalds, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and actress Roseanne Barr.

last Fundraiser at Trump National Doral in March Hosted by former Ambassador Carlos Trujillo, funds benefited the super PAC Make America Great Again, Inc.

The Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, which raises money for Trump’s campaign and leadership PAC, accounted for the majority of spending at Trump properties, with other expenses paid by Trump’s main campaign committee, MAGA Inc. super PAC and Save. America.

Concerns about Trump’s trade conflicts date back to the 2016 election

There were questions about how Trump’s companies benefited from his political career throughout the former president’s three campaigns and four years in the White House.

Under pressure to avoid potential conflicts of interest between his role as president and his extensive business dealings, Trump announced after his 2016 election victory that he would not make any “new deals.” The new president also appointed his two adult sons responsible for the family business. Which was controlled by trust Which critics said did not contain requirements strong enough to prevent potential ethical conflicts.

Lawsuits accuse Trump of violating the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution during his presidency It was unsuccessful. Critics said those seeking to influence the Trump administration funneled money to his companies. Including a hotel near the White House in Washington, DC It has since been sold and renamed the Waldorf Astoria.

A motorcade speeds down Pennsylvania Avenue, past what was formerly the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on January 24, 2019.

The American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in 2016 alleging that “Mr. Trump is using his presidential campaign funds to advance his business and personal interests.” The complaint was dismissed, but concerns remain on the minds of some campaign finance experts.

“People should run for office because they want to serve the public, not because they want to enrich themselves,” Portes said. “So the fact that campaigns are allowed to finance a candidate’s actions raises these concerns. Although this is legal, it creates a kind of negative impression of the electoral system.”

Richard Briffault, a professor of legislation at Columbia Law School, said Trump’s use of campaign funds for his businesses may not be illegal, but it is “a little suspicious.”

“No one has ever seen anything like this.”

The only political candidate who could be compared to such a sprawling business might be former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who ran for president as a Democrat, but even then, there is no exact comparison, Briffault said. “The whole thing with Trump, no one has ever seen anything like this,” he said.

The main thing Trump companies need to do is charge his campaign and political action committees the same amount they would charge any other client paying for services. But there’s also an ethical question about whether the campaign and political action committees could get a better deal elsewhere.

“How much do they charge? And how much do they put people who might stay somewhere else that might be cheaper?” Briffault asked. “You can imagine there might be cheaper places for this stuff, but they’re deliberately keeping it there.”

Trump’s political action committee leadership has also spent huge sums of money on lawyers as the president faces four criminal cases. It is offline On trial in New York City In a case involving alleged payments to a pornographic film star during the 2016 presidential campaign to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual relationship.

Days after the 2020 elections, Leadership spent by PAC Save America More than $72.5 million in legal bills from many of the same firms that represent him in his civil and criminal cases. This fund represents the bulk of his legal spending, but its committees have spent millions more.

Spending money on legal cases is not unusual for a campaign, but campaign finance experts say Trump has gone too far.

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