Donald Trump’s campaign is defending its reasoning for more than quadrupling what it pays to rent office space in the Republican presidential nominee’s namesake tower, saying the higher rent comes from occupying more space.
Federal Election Commission filings show that the Republican nominee’s campaign paid $169,758 in rent last month for space at the Manhattan skyscraper — a dramatic jump of 5 times the amount from March, when the campaign paid Trump Tower LLC only $35,458 in rent.
The spike in rent, which was first reported by The Huffington Post, is a result of the campaign adding two more levels to its existing space, the campaign said Tuesday.
“We calculated the rent based on the average rent per square foot in the area,” the campaign said in a statement provided to CNN.
“Overall, we still pay over $40,000 less in rent than the Clinton campaign,” the statement added. “Also, Mr. Trump makes a personal contribution of $2 million per month to the campaign, obviously a much higher amount than rent.”
Clinton’s campaign is paying about $212,000 a month, according to the Huffington Post, in rent for its 80,000 square feet of office space in Brooklyn.
Steven Cheung, Trump’s director of rapid response, also told the Associated Press the “expansion is in anticipation of more staff.”
However the Trump campaign has not expanded, in March the campaign had 197 paid employees and consultants, while in July it paid 172 employees and consultants.
“If I was a donor, I’d want answers,” said a prominent Republican National Committee member who supports Trump, asking for anonymity to speak freely. “If they don’t have any more staff, and they’re paying five times more? That’s the kind of stuff I’d read and try to make an (attack) ad out of it.”
Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s campaign pounced on the reports of larger rent payments. Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said Tuesday that Trump “has highly unusual expenditures, even in this campaign.”
The 172 employees paid by the Trump campaign last month is dwarfed by the more than 700 paid staff on Clinton’s campaign.
“So, as an example, Donald Trump is renting space in one of his buildings to his campaign and the campaign is paying Donald Trump personally for the space,” Kaine said during a roundtable in Lakewood, Colorado. “Once he started to fundraise dramatically, he was self-funding for a while, but once he started to fundraise dramatically, he immediately tripled the rent payment that his campaign donors were paying him personally.”
It isn’t the first time that Trump’s campaign has appeared to be working in concert with his business interests. Federal records have shown that Trump had directed almost a fifth of his campaign cash to companies to which he is linked.
(h/t CNN, Huffington Post)
While we must stress that there is no direct evidence that Donald Trump is purposefully lining his pockets with the money from donors, but the timing of raising his rent 5 times (that he pays to himself) as soon as he begins accepting external donations while having no good explanation does raise major questions.
However it is important to remember Trump has suggested in 2000 when he mulled making an independent run: “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”
Historically, candidates would separate themselves from their business interests when running for office. Trump has done the opposite by promoting his businesses while running for office.