Elections

Published — April 15, 2019

Trump campaign spends big at Trump properties — and feathers friends’ nests

President Donald Trump pauses while speakings to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, before boarding Marine One helicopter on April 10, 2019. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

New filing also shows the president entered April with more than $40 million in reserve

Introduction

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign only spent a fraction of the more than $30 million it collected during the first three months of 2019.

But of the $8.8 million Trump spent to cover campaign expenses — ranging from events to merchandise to hefty legal fees — a chunk went to benefit his Trump branded-empire and some of the people closest to him, according to a Federal Election Commission disclosure filed Monday evening.

From Jan. 1 to March 31, Trump’s re-election campaign spent more than $168,000 at Trump companies that he still owns. Among them: the Trump Corporation, Trump Grill, Trump Hotels, Trump Plaza, Trump Restaurants and Trump Tower Commercial.

Such spending continues a years-long trend of the president frequenting his own properties for dinners, events or for office use. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Trump’s campaign has spent more than $14 million on Trump-branded companies since he first began running for president.

Trump’s personal assets are held in a family-managed trust, but the president may revoke the legal authority of his trustees at any time.

Trump’s campaign also spent $50,000 on communications strategies at RS Strategies LLC, a firm just formed by Raj Shah, the recently departed White House deputy press secretary.

Parscale Strategy LLC, the private company of Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, also took in $582,000 for digital consulting, online advertising and video production services, disclosures with the FEC show.

Trump’s campaign also made $2.8 million worth of payments to American Made Media Consultants LLC, a company established by Trump’s campaign to coordinate ad buying — effectively shielding the identities of the underlying contractors being paid for Trump campaign work.

Trump raised more money during the three first months of 2019 than any of his individual Democratic presidential counterparts. His campaign’s most successful fundraising day was Jan. 9, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of itemized contributions. This was the day after Trump’s first Oval Office address of his presidency.

The Trump campaign also had more than $40 million in reserve headed into April. That’s because the president effectively began fundraising from the day of his inauguration, creating a permanent presidential campaign of sorts.

Since January 2017, Trump has conducted more than 60 political rallies across the country. He’s incessantly marketed Trump campaign swag, including Make America Great Again clothing and even fake bricks playing off his desire to build a wall on the United States’ southern border.

Meanwhile, Trump is already supported by a constellation of super PACs and political nonprofits that are raising millions of dollars more, parallel to the campaign.

“The president is in a vastly stronger position at this point than any previous incumbent president running for re-election, and only continues to build momentum,” Parscale said today in statement.

Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report

Read more in Money and Democracy

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