The Biggest Political Spender at Trump Properties Is Trump

By Demetrios Pogkas and Bill Allison

President Donald J. Trump’s campaign continued to spend big at Trump hotels, restaurants and the iconic Trump Tower, more than any other political committee.

Republican groups spent a little over $1 million at Trump properties in 2017. Of that, almost 70 percent was from Trump’s own campaign and his joint fundraising committees.

Source of political spending to Trump Org. entities in 2017

Most of Trump’s spending was on rent for his campaign’s headquarters at Trump Tower in Manhattan—where rent doesn’t come cheap—and his mounting legal fees.

These totals don’t include other ways Trump’s properties rake in cash. The Trump International Hotel a few blocks from the White House has become a go-to spot for many Republicans to see and be seen, whether for happy-hour drinks or maybe a steak dinner. Those bills don't necessarily get charged to a campaign’s tab. And it’s a common destination for diplomats, foreign officials or executives to stay the night when they have business in Washington.

But when it comes to official campaign spending, whether for event space or lodging, Republicans have mostly spent their money elsewhere. Two GOP party committees that support House and Senate candidates host events and raise money across the country. In places where the Trump Org. has some of its most prominent properties—New York, Washington, D.C., Illinois, and Nevada—the committees combined to spend more than $1 million on event space and catering last year. None was spent at a Trump Org. property.

The campaigns of 20 Republicans reported political expenditures at Trump properties last year. And the Republican National Committee, which raises money in coordination with the Trump campaign, held their winter meeting on Feb. 1 at the Washington hotel.

All political expenditures to Trump Org. entities in 2017

Unlike other recent presidents, Trump still has a financial interest in his businesses through a trust. That's led to lawsuits claiming he's violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution, which prohibit federal officers from receiving gifts from foreign governments without the permission of Congress and from being similarly enriched by state governments.

And government ethics experts have argued that by not divesting his holdings, Trump opens himself to conflicts of interest if groups seeking to influence federal policy do business at his properties.