President Donald Trump is profiting off his 2020 reelection bid by having his own businesses charge the campaign for goods and services, according to an explosive new report by Forbes.
Forbes reported on Thursday that while court filings show Trump has "not donated a penny of his own" money toward his campaign, "his businesses continued to charge the campaign for hotels, food, rent and legal consulting."
This has resulted in nearly $1.1 million in personal enrichment by the already compromised 45th president. So far, 50,000 people have contributed to Trump's 2020 campaign. Trump is not one of them.
This is a stark contrast to 2016 when Trump spent $66 million of his own money to pump himself up as a candidate.
Forbes found, for example, that Trump Tower in New York, which the president owns outright, "charged the reelection campaign $665,000 in rent." The Republican National Committee has spent an additional $225,000 in Trump Tower, though a spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
Is it really so surprising? No.
The differences between today and 2016, however, are substantial.
"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," Forbes learned. "The 2020 operation, by contrast, is shelling out an average of $6,300 in monthly rent for every such person."
Another of Trump's entities, Trump Plaza LLC, has raked in $42,000 in campaign funds since November of last year, Forbes said. But the specifics, like with Trump Tower, remain elusive.
"Trump Plaza LLC controls a retail space, garage and two brownstones near Third Avenue in New York City," Forbes noted. "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."
Forbes added that the brownstones are closed to the public and therefore whatever is going on inside them is unknown.
After watching the comings and goings from the brownstones, Forbes was left with little to go on. The people entering and exiting either did not want to talk, or knew nothing. This includes the Trump Plaza lobby attendant.
“I’ve been here since the beginning,” the doorman said. “If there was any kind of office rented out for campaigning or whatever, I would know about it.”
So what explains the steadily increasing stream of revenue to Trump properties at the expense of campaign donors? That remains to be seen.
"From November 2017 to August 2018, the Trump campaign paid Trump Plaza LLC an average of $4,200 per month," Forbes found. "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."
Beyond that, another $90,000 in "legal consulting" was funneled into the Trump Corporation shortly after the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017. Federal records do not indicate what types of legal services were performed by Trump's company.
Two of Trump's hotels have also profited from the campaign. The lavish Trump International Hotel just down the street from the White House brought in $120,000 on donors' dimes. In February of last year, said Forbes, the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas earned $15,000. For what, we do not know.
One former Federal Election Commission head told Forbes the financial relationship between Trump's campaign and businesses is "highly unusual" and potentially illegal.
“There is always a concern when you’re looking at expenditures as to whether those expenditures are being used for personal use, for personal purposes, because that’s illegal," said Ann Ravel, who left her post after Trump took office. "And there is, in my opinion, a fine line here with so much money being utilized for economic benefit for the candidate himself.”
As of October 2018, Trump's reelection campaign has raised an "unprecedented" $100 million.