Trump's campaign spent more than $137,000 in rent alone at Trump-branded properties in the first three months of 2019, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.
The presidency continues to be a lucrative endeavor for Trump, as a campaign finance filing from late Monday shows that the Trump re-election effort poured nearly $170,000 into Trump-owned businesses and properties in the first three months of 2019.
The vast majority of that money — $137,025.01 — went toward rent at Trump-owned properties, according to the campaign's first-quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission.
NEW: Trump 2020 re-election campaign's FEC disclosure reports raising $30.3M in the start of 2019 & spending $8.8M, $168,333.15 of that went to Trump businesses with $25,436 on "Legal & IT consulting" & the rest on rent or travel expenses at Trump Tower, restaurants & properties pic.twitter.com/hbSAAoVLVT
— Anna Massoglia (@annalecta) April 15, 2019
Jordan Libowitz, communications director at the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics in Washington, said that it is legal for the Trump campaign to spend money at Trump properties so long as they are paying fair market value for the services. However, given the lack of transparency in the Trump Organization, it's hard to know whether Trump is adhering to that rule.
"As long as the Trump campaign is paying fair market value, this is allowed — although when it comes to the Trump Organization, he's never been particularly transparent about finances," Libowitz said in a statement to Shareblue. "What this is is just one more example of Donald Trump profiting off of his presidency."
For example, in the first three months of the year, Trump spent $9,000 in rent at "Trump Restaurants LLC," according to the FEC filing.
Forbes did some sleuthing to determine that the rent appears to be going toward a kiosk in Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York that sells Trump memorabilia for Trump's campaign. The kiosk is just 60 square feet, which means the annual price per square foot is $600 — more than the $440 price per square foot Gucci pays in the same Trump Tower building but in a more prime location, according to Forbes.
That suggests Trump is getting above market value for the space rented out by his campaign.
Of course, Trump has long been profiting off his campaign.
In the 2016 campaign, $1 out of every $10 Trump raised went back into Trump's own pocket in some form, according to an NPR analysis after the campaign concluded. In total, Trump's businesses took in $12.7 million that was raised by donors — a massive amount of money.
And judging by Trump's first-quarter FEC filing, that pattern of grift will continue for Trump's 2020 re-election bid.
Published with permission of The American Independent.