I’m sure the remaining members of the Trump cult dismiss every critical article about Mr. “He tells it like it is” (i.e., he’s willing to be publicly as racist and sexist as I’ve wanted to be) as leftwing propaganda.
And I’m equally sure that the fringiest left-wingers dismiss all pro-market businesspeople as apologists for the plutocracy.
They’re both wrong.
On the day Donald Trump became president of the United States, while inauguration festivities were still in full swing, he officially launched his 2020 reelection campaign. Donations poured in from more than 50,000 people across the country. But according to the latest federal filings, Trump still has not donated a penny of his own, while his businesses continued to charge the campaign for hotels, food, rent and legal consulting. That means the richest president in American history has turned $1.1 million from donors across the country into revenue for himself.
A number of articles in the mainstream press had reported on similar grifting during the 2016 campaign. But for the 2020 campaign, the game-playing has become far bolder.
Leading up to the 2016 election, the president’s campaign paid an average of $2,700 in monthly Trump Tower rent for every person listed in campaign filings as receiving a “payroll” payment. The 2020 operation, by contrast, is shelling out an average of $6,300 in monthly rent for every such person.
Then there are the payments flowing into Trump Plaza LLC, a Trump-owned entity that has taken in $42,000 of campaign money since November 2017. Although federal filings list the purpose of those payments as “rent,” it is difficult to tell what the campaign is actually renting. Trump Plaza LLC controls a retail space, garage and two brownstones near Third Avenue in New York City. The retail space at Trump Plaza shows no signs of campaign activity, and a non-Trump company seems to sub-lease the garage from Trump Plaza LLC—leaving just the two brownstones. But they are not open to the public, making it difficult to see who the tenants are, and whether they include the president’s campaign.
Curious, Forbes staked out the buildings. Their reporter arrived at 7:15 a.m. on a November morning, and stayed for the next 14 hours. During that time, seven people went in and out. One refused to talk to the reporter, and the other six said they had seen no sign of the campaign in the buildings. (Neither had the man behind the front desk at Trump Plaza. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” he said. “If there was any kind of office rented out for campaigning or whatever, I would know about it.”)
From November 2017 to August 2018, the Trump campaign paid Trump Plaza LLC an average of $4,200 per month. The real estate website StreetEasy lists recent rentals in the building for $3,700 to $3,850 per month. Candidates are permitted to do business with their own companies only if they pay fair-market prices.
There are other campaign payments that raise suspicions. One month after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, the campaign paid the Trump Corporation, another one of the president’s companies, $90,000 in “legal consulting” expenses, according to federal records. It is not clear what legal services Trump’s company provided the campaign, or what rate it charged for the work. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.
Expenditures benefitting the candidate personally rather than the campaign are, of course, illegal. The President brags that he knows everything, but he is painfully and all-too-obviously ignorant of campaign law. Or for that matter, any law.
I would like to remind those on the political far Right who still support Trump that Forbes is hardly a “liberal” outlet.
I would like to remind those on the political far left who lump all businesses and supporters of market economics together that Forbes is not alone; there are plenty of millionaires and billionaires who are appalled by Donald Trump.
Left and Right, we’re all just waiting for Congressional Republicans to remember that they were elected to serve the country, not their party.