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Trump 2020 is already spending big at Trump businesses

Kristin Myers

President Donald Trump isn’t a candidate in next week’s midterm elections, but his campaign is still raising and spending plenty of money.

His 2020 presidential campaign raised $4.5 million from July to October, according to its most recent Federal Election Commission filings. It spent $7.7 million during that same period.

And Trump 2020 wasn’t the only thing that made money: Trump’s businesses did too.

The campaign spent more than $150,000 at Trump properties and holdings, according to the FEC filing. For the year, that amount comes to nearly $500,000.

Figures don’t include money spent by Trump’s two joint fundraising committees, the Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again Committee.

The Republican National Committee also spent big at Trump companies. The RNC spent close to $22,000 at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. in the first two weeks of October alone. This includes more than $12,000 spent on catering. Other expenditures include hotel stays and venue rental at the property.

A break from tradition

Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for the nonpartisan non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), says these expenditures aren’t illegal. But, he says, they are unusual. (CREW is involved in a lawsuit against Trump for violating the Emoluments clause of the Constitution which prohibits sitting public officials — including the president — from profiting from their position. The suit is ongoing. Previous emoluments lawsuits from CREW were dismissed.)

“It is certainly not normal for anyone not named Donald Trump,” he says. “He did a lot of this in 2016, in that election, and that has been going straight through unchanged. It’s not something you normally see.”

Libowitz says historically presidents have tried to appear fiscally “above board” so they are not questioned.

“For a sitting president, they have for decades separated themselves from their assets. But the Trump administration has rejected norms in favor of just strict letter of the law.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks during the grand opening of Trump International Hotel in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks during the grand opening of Trump International Hotel in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Trump ceded control of The Trump Organization — which includes hotels, golf resorts, and apartment buildings — when he became president. But Libowitz says the president is using his political apparatus to make a profit.

“He did not divest,” Libowitz says. “He sold some stock, but that’s not divesting from the Trump business. He set up a non-blind trust that’s revocable, and he can remove money from it with permission of the trustee — which is his son.”

“He’s still profiting,” he continued.

Increased spending

Money spent at Trump properties and companies has only increased since Trump became a presidential candidate, according to Libowitz. His 2016 campaign spent nearly $12 million on hotel stays, catering, rent, and more at Trump businesses, according to the New York Times.

“There’s been a massive uptick,” said Libowitz. “Not just in Republican committees and campaigns, but also the federal government.”

In May, House Democrats introduced the ‘Disclosing Official Spending at Presidential Businesses Act’. The bill requires the government to disclose official expenses spent at any businesses “owned, either in whole or in part, by the president, or a trust controlled by the president”.

With a Republican-controlled Congress, it was never likely the bill would pass.

“And again, this is all perfectly legal,” Libowitz said. “As long as there’s no quid pro quo and they’re paying market rates… But you have to ask: why the uptick?”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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