Trump’s 2020 Campaign Has Reportedly Funneled Over $1 Million Into His Own Businesses

Federal election filings analyzed by Forbes say that Trump’s 2020 campaign has raked in millions of dollar from donors while Trump himself has converted at least $1.1 million of those donor funds into his own money by charging “the campaign for hotels, food, rent and legal consulting.”

Trump Tower Commercial LLC is a New York State-based entity owned by the 45th president. As of the latest campaign finance filing, the entity had charged Trump’s re-election campaign at least $665,000 in rent. An additional $225,000 in rent payments have been made to this entity through a similar arrangement with the Republican National Committee (RNC).

The extent of the space currently being rented by the 2020 campaign and the RNC is currently unknown but reporter Dan Alexander‘s reporting suggests one of two things: an extreme amount of real estate is currently being occupied–or the Trump Tower business is heavily inflating real estate prices.

Per Forbes:

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.

And that’s not all.

There’s also the matter of a separate Trump-owned and New York State-based entity known as Trump Plaza LLC. This entity currently controls a retail space, a parking garage, and two medium-sized apartment buildings.

According to federal filings, the Trump 2020 campaign has paid Trump Plaza LLC at least $42,000 in rent since November 2017–but, according to Forbes, there doesn’t appear to be any campaign activity occurring on any such property owned by the entity.

For one, the retail space simply has nothing campaign-related going on whatsoever. Same goes for the parking garage–which appears to be sub-leased to a non-Trump company at present. As for the apartment buildings? It doesn’t look like there’s any campaign-related activity happening there either.

Again, Alexander’s report:

Forbes staked out the buildings, arriving at 7:15 a.m. one November morning and staying for the next 14 hours, with the exception of an 18-minute break around 3 p.m. By our count, seven people went in and out of the twin, four-story brownstones over the course of the day. One refused to talk, and six said they had not seen any sign of the campaign in the buildings. Nor had a 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.”

The report goes on to speculate that it’s “unlikely” Trump’s 2020 campaign would simply hand cash over to the president for “nothing in return,” and cites an unnamed Trump 2016 staffer who said that Trump Plaza apartments would occasionally serve as crash pads for Trump campaign staff. If that’s the case, of course, it would be a lot cheaper to occasionally rent hotel rooms, but, Alexander notes, “that would not guarantee a steady stream of rent for the president.”

Breaking down that revenue stream is also illustrative.

Since Trump Plaza LLC began charging Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign “rent” in November 2017,  such payments have averaged out to some $4,200 per month. Those amounts appear to be quite a bit above market value.

According to Forbes‘ recent perusal of real estate website StreetEasy, recent rents in the same brownstone apartments have gone for $3,700 and $3,850–substantially lower prices (especially in the fiercely competitive Manhattan real estate market) than what Trump’s campaign has been paying the president’s own business for alleged campaign use of those circumspect properties.

And even if it doesn’t seem like much of up-charge? According to Federal Election Commission rules, campaigns are supposed to pay “fair market value” for all goods and services they use–especially when they use and pay their own businesses.

[Law and Crime, Inquisitr]

Trump picks handbag designer, Mar-a-Lago member to be envoy to South Africa

President Donald Trump has nominated handbag designer Lana Marks to be the next US ambassador to South Africa.

Marks, a Florida resident and member of Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a source familiar with the club, was born and raised in South Africa, where she attended the University of the Witwatersrand and the Institute of Personnel Management in Johannesburg, the White House said in a statement.

Marks is photographed and quoted giving a warm testimonial on the website of Mar-a-Lago’s official photographer, saying she had captured her daughter’s wedding at the club “in a very special way.”

Marks is known for luxury handbags in exotic animal skins, such as ostrich and alligator, with prices that can hover above $19,000. One of her more expensive creations, a $400,000 clutch, has been carried on the red carpet. The designer’s website features photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston carrying her goods and says her accessories have become a favorite among “royalty and entertainment style makers.”

Ballet and tennis

Described by the Palm Beach Daily as “like Trump, a relentless self-promoter,” Marks speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa, two of South Africa’s languages, according to the White House.

Her website chronicles an upbringing that included studying at the Royal Academy of Ballet. The concept for starting an exotic leather handbag line came, the site says, when Marks couldn’t find a bag to match the suit she planned to wear to a birthday celebration for Queen Elizabeth. According to her Instagram accountshe attempted to qualify for the French Open tennis tournament in 1978.

Marks’ site also notes that she was appointed to the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of government, which supports the Women and Public Policy Program. Both the board and the program focus on gender equality and improving lives around the world, the Harvard site says. The Harvard site notes that board members “engage philanthropically” with the policy program “through three annual giving tiers.”

Board members provide a minimum annual gift of $10,000 per individual member, $20,000 per Leadership Circle member and $25,000 per corporation.

[CNN]

Trump’s golf cart rentals cost taxpayers more than $300K

President Trump‘s golf cart rentals in the U.S. have cost taxpayers $300,675 since he took office, TMZ reported.

Federal documents indicate many of these expenses come from Trump’s time at Mar-a-Lago, according to the online tabloid. Secret Service uses the golf carts to follow Trump on his golfing excursions.

The total expense of Trump’s golf outings, including Secret Service protection, comes out to an estimated $77 million, according to TMZ. The more than $300,000 figure only refers to Trump’s domestic golf outings, the news outlet reported.

Critics have often slammed Trump over the cost and frequency of his golf trips. Most recently, the president was met with large protests when he played at a Virginia golf course on the day of the late Sen. John McCain‘s (R-Ariz.) funeral at the beginning of September.

Democratic lawmakers in July penned a letter to the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security demanding details on Secret Service expenses during Trump’s trip to his golf course in Scotland earlier that month. The Democrats were responding to a report that indicated Trump’s time on his Turnberry golf course cost taxpayers up to $1.2 million.

Some have accused the president of profiting from his golf trips personally, as he typically visits his own clubs, an accusation that the Trump Organization has pushed back on.

“For United States government patronage, our hotels charge room rates only at cost and we do not profit from these stays,” George Sorial, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president, said in a statement to People Magazine.

[The Hill]

Trump considering plan to privatize Afghanistan War

President Trump has reportedly shown renewed interest in a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to privatize the United States’ war in Afghanistan, according to an NBC News.

NBC News on Friday, citing current and former senior administration officials, reported the proposition would replace troops with private military contractors who would work for a government liaison, who would in turn report directly to the president.

Trump’s “advisers are worried his impatience with the Afghanistan conflict will cause him to seriously consider proposals like Prince’s or abruptly order a complete U.S. withdrawal,” according to the report.In an interview with NBC News, Prince said he thinks Trump’s advisers are painting “as rosy a picture as they can” in the war effort while claiming that peace is near.

NBC News reports that administration officials often emphasize political resolutions with the Taliban and downplay military frustrations on the ground.

Prince also told NBC News that he will soon launch a media campaign to bring the White House around to his proposal.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council pushed back at the report, telling NBC News that the president is committed to the strategy he signed off on last year and that “no such proposal from Erik Prince is under consideration.”

The proposal, if implemented, would be sure to raise eyebrows on ethical grounds. First, Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Second, Blackwater, now known as Academi, has a fraught history with human rights following its employees’ involvement in the killings of unarmed civilians in Iraq.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai limited the use of contractors in Afghanistan in 2010, a policy the current government would have to overturn for this proposal to be viable.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.

[The Hill]

Trump using Scotland visit to promote his golf course — which is losing millions

President Donald Trump is running an “informercial” for his struggling Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Financial records show that the president’s Trump Turnberry resort has lost money since the New York City real estate mogul purchased the golf course in 2014.

“In fact, the Turnberry operation has lost tens of millions of pounds since he purchased it, filings in Britain show: about £17 million in 2016, the last year for which such comprehensive records are available,” the Times reported. “For 2017, Mr. Trump’s government ethics filing discloses only how much revenue the course generated — $20.4 million — not whether it had earned a profit.”

The commander-in-chief also cited his investment in claiming that Brexit would be good for his struggling business.

“When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly,” Trump publicly concluded.

Ethics watchdogs worry about Trump mixing private business during his public trip to Scotland.

Eisen, the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) blasted Trump hyping his struggling business during his taxpayer-funded trip.

“Through this trip to Turnberry,” Mr. Eisen said, “the president is forcing his foreign hosts and the United States to spend enormous amounts of money so that he can get free advertising for his resort.”

“He’s the master of earned media,” Eisen noted. “It’s an important part of the way he won the presidency, and that’s what he’s doing here.”

As Trump arrived in Scotland, demonstrators mobilized to protest his visit.

The BBC reported that a power paraglider was flying lose to Trump Turnberry with a banner reading, “Trump: Well below par.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Defends Golfing in Scotland: It’s ‘My Primary Form of Exercise!’

President Trump on Saturday tweeted his plans for the weekend during his trip to Europe, saying that he will “hopefully” golf, which he referred to as his “primary form of exercise.”

“I have arrived in Scotland and will be at Trump Turnberry for two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf – my primary form of exercise!” Trump tweeted. “The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible!”

He also highlighted his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Trump owns two private golf resorts in Scotland, including Turnberry.

The president is known to be a frequent golfer, often spending his weekends at his private golf clubs in Virginia, near Washington, D.C., or in Florida. He has spent 127 days of his presidency at his golf properties, according to a NBC News tracker.

Trump said earlier this year that he gets “more exercise than people think” after his then-White House doctor recommended that he exercise more.

“I get exercise. I mean I walk, I this, I that,” Trump said at the time. “I run over to a building next door. I get more exercise than people think.”

He also referred to his playing golf as a form of exercise, but added that he usually uses a golf cart on the course because of the amount of time it can talk to walk it.

“I don’t want to spend the time,” Trump said.

[The Hill]

EPA’s Pruitt Made Young Staffers Pay for His Hotel Stays, Then Refused to Reimburse Them

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, already famously scandal-ridden, made even more ridiculously ethically questionable decisions than were previously known, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

Two top Pruitt aides spoke to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about even more of what the administrator asked staffers to do for his personal gain, including pressuring them to arrange first-class travel for him and to find a six-figure job for his wife – all this against the counsel of many of his allies.

The new information comes after EPA’s chief ethics officer, Kevin Minoli, told the Office of Government Ethics last week that he thought the investigation into Pruitt should be broadened, saying: “additional potential issues regarding Mr. Pruitt have come to my attention through sources within the EPA and media reports,” the Washington Post reports.

Amazingly, a current and former EPA official also revealed that Pruitt would ask his assistants to put hotel reservations on their own personal credit cards – not his – on a routine basis.

According to former deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski, during the presidential transition one staffer charged approximately $600 to her credit card for a hotel booking for Pruitt’s family. The staffer later approached Pruitt’s chief of staff to explain that the period for transition reimbursements had expired and that Pruitt had not covered the bill.

As the Hill first reported, Pruitt’s chief of staff ended up giving her $600 in cash – out of his own pocket.

“She literally went to Ryan and said, ‘Look, Pruitt needs to pay me back for this. It was $600 bucks.’ And Ryan took six $100 dollar bills out of his pocket,” Chmielewski told the Hill last month.

Scotty, for the love of God, man. There’s only so long the entirety of civilization can look down upon you. I hear in Oklahoma, the wind comes right behind the rain – neither of which may be around for too much longer if you stick around the Capitol.

[Mediaite]

Trump’s IRS nominee didn’t disclose properties in Trump-branded hotel

President Donald Trump’s pick to run the IRS, tax lawyer Chuck Rettig, owns properties at the Trump International Hotel Waikiki and Tower.

He’d previously disclosed his 50 percent stake in a pair of Honolulu rental units, but not their specific location. That detail was discussed later, at a June 21 meeting with congressional staff, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO.

Trump typically gets fees on sales for licensing his name.

The document was circulated Wednesday to Senate Finance Committee members ahead of their hearing on Rettig’s nomination, scheduled for Thursday.

“The nominee did disclose these properties, but not their location,” the memo said of Rettig’s original answers to financial disclosure questions that ask nominees to list assets and sources of income that exceed $1,000.

The revelation about the Trump-branded hotel seems certain to come up when Rettig testifies.

“Committee staff raised this at the nominee’s June 21st due diligence meeting,” the memo said. “The nominee plans to provide more detail on his Committee Questionnaire to include the full name of the property.”

[Politico]

Rich Alaskan donor gave $250K to Trump after EPA reversed decision on Pebble Mine

A wealthy activist who has funded efforts to block a proposed mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay donated $250,000 to President Donald Trump‘s re-election effort six weeks after the administration abruptly decided to prevent the mine from moving forward.

The move to block the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay from moving forward seems to diverge from a trend in policy under the leadership of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt — seen as one of President Donald Trump’s most productive cabinet members in moving to undo environmental regulations put in place under the Obama administration. During the Trump presidency, the EPA in 2017 had previously allowed the mine to move forward.

The EPA said the change in course was because the environmental risk was too great and announced on January 26 that the mine would not immediately move forward.

Robert Gillam made his second and largest donation to Trump Victory Fund just weeks later, donating $250,000 on March 9, according to FEC filings.

Gillam has previously spent as much as $2.5 million to block the Pebble Mine from moving forward in Alaska’s fertile fishing ground called the Bristol Bay. He has been advocating against the mine since 2005, according to an Alaska state report. He declined to comment for this story.

Gillam has previously donated to the Republican National Committee, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Republican campaigns in Alaska.

He went to Wharton with Trump and met with him at Mar-a-Lago the weekend before he made a $250,000 donation to the president’s Victory Fund, according to a report in E&E News. Gillam owns a fishing lodge in the area, according to public meeting records, and has said that the mine would hurt the local salmon population.

Last November he wrote in an editorial that the mine project was “doomed.”

[ABC News]

Scott Pruitt Sought ‘Business Opportunity’ With Chick-fil-A While Leading E.P.A.

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, gave a political aide the task of helping him seek a “business opportunity” for his wife with the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A.

Emails released to the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act show that Sydney Hupp, a former scheduler for Mr. Pruitt, contacted Chick-fil-A’s chief executive, Dan T. Cathy, in May 2017 at Mr. Pruitt’s behest to set up a meeting.

After a back-and-forth in which Ms. Hupp initially said the administrator “didn’t mention a specific topic” of discussion, she told the company’s director of regulatory affairs that Mr. Pruitt’s request was of a personal nature. “The Administrator would like to talk about a potential business opportunity with Mr. Cathy. Nothing very pressing, just hoping to connect sometime in the next month or so,” Ms. Hupp wrote.

Mr. Pruitt ultimately spoke by phone with Chick-fil-A representatives.

Mr. Cathy, reached by phone, referred questions to a company spokeswoman, Carrie Kurlander. Ms. Kurlander said she would not comment further. In an email to The Washington Post, which first reported Mr. Pruitt’s effort to seek a business deal with Chick-fil-A, Ms. Kurlander had said the call was about the possibility of Mr. Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn, opening a franchise of the fast food chain. Ms. Kurlander told the Post that Mrs. Pruitt never completed the franchisee application.

Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the E.P.A., did not respond to a request for comment.

Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, said in a statement that Mr. Pruitt had been engaged in “unethically and illegally seeking personal benefits because of the job Donald Trump has entrusted him with.”

The revelation that Mr. Pruitt asked an E.P.A. employee to help coordinate efforts to seek a personal business opportunity comes amid a wave of investigations into the administrator’s spending and management decisions including his first-class travel and spending on security, as well as his decision last year to accept a $50-a-night lease on a condominium from the wife of a lobbyist with business before his agency. Currently Mr. Pruitt faces 12 federal investigations.

 

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/climate/pruitt-epa-chick-fil-a.html

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