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Hotel Swamplandia: More than 200 Big Spenders at Trump’s Businesses

By Alan Zibel

At President Donald Trump’s hotels, golf courses and restaurants, you can check out any time you like, but the conflicts of interest never disappear.

For those seeking to get on Trump’s good side, it certainly helps to fork over some cash at one of his properties. There simply is no other plausible explanation why so many companies, business groups and foreign governments are spending big money eating, drinking, socializing and sleeping at Trump’s properties around the country. And there’s always the chance that the president himself will show up.

At the start of his administration, Trump turned over control of businesses to his sons Don Jr. and Eric, but still controls the trust that owns the properties and can withdraw money whenever he likes. And Trump’s family still benefits from his properties. Recently posted financial disclosures reveal that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who also is a White House official, made $3.9 million last year from her stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Public Citizen has kept a close watch over who is spending money at Trump properties and has documented 204 instances of trade groups, companies, religious groups, charities, foreign governments, interest groups and political candidates staying in Trump properties or spending money there. This tally is more than triple what we counted in our first look at the issue in January.

Our tally highlights who is most enthusiastically embracing Trump and unabashedly basking in the culture of self-enrichment and influence-peddling permeating his circle. For instance, donors paid at least $100,000 per person ($250,000 for VIP status) to attend the June 18-19 “leadership summit” of Trump super PAC America First Action, which featured Trump himself and assorted luminaries, including former press secretary Sean Spicer.

The steady drumbeat of events at Trump properties may bolster the argument of state officials in Maryland and the District of Columbia who have filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution’s ban on payments from foreign governments to U.S. officials. Trump has “affirmatively encouraged foreign governments to augment his considerable wealth by doing business with his businesses,” Maryland Solicitor General Steven Sullivan told a federal judge this month.

For their part, Trump administration officials claim there’s nothing improper going on, contending there is no expectation of payback or quid pro quo, and that Trump is not responsible for a foreign official’s effort to sow favor with the government. The Constitution “didn’t intend to prohibit a private commercial transaction,” U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Brett Shumate told the judge overseeing the case.

Some of the interaction between international elites and Trump confidantes is happening right in the open on social media. On June 12, Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel “Babe” del Gallego Romualdez celebrated the 120th anniversary of his country’s independence at Trump’s D.C. hotel. Trump has boasted of his “great relationship” with Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s president, and has expressed admiration for the Duterte government’s executions of drug dealers.

In 2017, Hary Tanoesoedibjo‏, a billionaire Indonesian developer, posted on social media a picture of himself and Trump son Eric celebrating Trump’s inauguration at the Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel. Tanoesoedibjo is no stranger to the Trump family. His company is building a Trump-branded hotel and golf course in Indonesia – with help from the Indonesian government and a state-owned Chinese company.

To compile our list, Public Citizen analyzed campaign records, press clips and social media posts as well as other efforts to document Trump’s swamp of corruption. Especially helpful were the Washington Post’s tally of events held at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., as well as an excellent running log of the hotel’s visitors, based largely on scouring social media sites, posted on Twitter by journalist Zach Everson.

We identified:

  • 121 political candidates or political groups;
  • 47 businesses/business groups;
  • 12 religious groups;
  • 10 foreign governments/business interests;
  • 8 charities;
  • 4 state and local governments; and
  • 2 educational institutions.

Visitors of note include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who spoke in May at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., along with the conservative social media stars known as Diamond and Silk (shown below with pro-Trump fashion designer and frequent Trump hotel visitor Andre Soriano.)

The Palin event in May was held by the MAGA Coalition, a group describing itself a “national network of over 5,000,000 America First citizens who share in the belief that both our national parties have taken America down the wrong path.” This group, which has extremist former White House aide Sebastian Gorka as its chief strategist, says it provides candidates with “volunteers, tools and exposure they need to successfully compete against globalist corporatists [sic] interests.”

Business groups holding events at Trump organization properties include:

  • The Institute of International Bankers, which held its annual conference at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., featuring banking regulators and officials from several federal agencies. Those attending the March 2018 event included the chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a top U.S. Department of the Treasury official who promised that a major regulatory rollback sought by banks would be “commencing shortly.”
  • The Seasonal Employment Alliance, which represents businesses that use overseas guest workers.
  • The National Mining Association, which held a board of directors meeting featuring U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in October 2017. Perry himself tweeted about the event.
  • Medical device company Align Technology, which was in Washington, D.C., for an orthodontist conference.
  • The Community Financial Services Association, which represents high-rate payday lenders, held their annual conference– and a golf tournament – at the Trump National Doral Golf Club near Miami, drawing protests outside the club’s gates.

The list also reveals numerous foreign visitors making appearances at Trump properties, including the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, as evidenced by this post (the original was deleted from Instagram).

Trump’s guests also include far-right organizations such as the Sovereign Nations Conference, which warns on its website that “the entire foundation of law and justice been cast aside in an all-out embrace of Marxist sourced social justice conformity.” And conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, a correspondent for One America News, made a recent appearance.

Also on the guest list: those who see the president as heralding a new era of Christian revival, despite the Playboy models and porn stars in Trump’s past. An event called  The Turnaround: An Appeal to Heaven National Gathering was organized by a group considering themselves “modern-day apostles and prophets, including Dutch SheetsChuck PierceCindy Jacobs and Lou Engle,” according to People for the American Way’s (PFAW) Right Wing Watch. PFAW wrote that the event’s leaders “are associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, which believes a triumphant, dominion-taking church will help bring about the return of Christ, and many are part of POTUS Shield, a network of self-described apostles and prophets who believe President Trump was anointed by God to help bring that all about.”

After returning from D.C., Sheets recapped the event enthusiastically, writing, “The government – the exposing of unrighteousness in government (Congress, the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court and even the embedded ‘Deep State’ with its liberal, humanistic, anti-Christian agenda) and the return to our Judeo-Christian roots will increase. Nothing will stop this” (emphasis in original).

As we documented in April, Trump‘s businesses have received millions from his political activities. Trump, his campaign and Republican political committees have directed millions in campaign and public money to Trump’s own hotelsairplanesrestaurants golf courses and even a bottled water company. Trump’s hotel in the nation’s capital, just blocks from the White House, brought in $40 million in revenue during Trump’s first year in office. However, revenue was weak at other properties, such as the Mar-A-Lago club in Florida. That property suffered from the cancellation of several charity events due to Trump-related controversy.

Trump came to office with the most blatant corrupting conflicts of interest in the history of American politics, so what followed should not be a surprise. By spending money at his properties, corporations and foreign governments are being transparent about their desire to curry favor with the president and influence the Trump administration’s policies.

Information on how much is being spent at Trump properties for political events is available, but remains unknown for the vast majority of spenders at Trump properties. An exception was the Saudi embassy, whose $270,000 in spending at the D.C. hotel was disclosed through a PR firm’s filing with the Justice Department. That said, we were able to document $1.75 million in spending, with more than half coming from the Republican Party. The top 10 spenders are:

  1. Republican National Committee $967,153
  2. Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia $270,000
  3. America First Action, Inc. $159,423
  4. Great America Committee $116,927
  5. Bill Shuster For Congress $31,962
  6. National Republican Senatorial Committee $26,053
  7. Texans For Jodey Arrington $16,603
  8. Macarthur Victory $15,221
  9. Greg Pence For Congress $13,374
  10. Rohrabacher For Congress $12,545

See here for the full spreadsheet.

NameCategorySpending InstancesSpending total
Afghan-American Chamber of CommerceBusiness1n/a
Alabama Republican PartyPolitical1$854
Alex Mooney for CongressPolitical3$610
Alliance Resource Partners LPBusiness1n/a
Align TechnologyBusiness1n/a
America First Action, Inc.Political31$159,423
American Association of OrthodontistsBusiness1n/a
American Land Title AssociationBusiness1n/a
American Legislative Exchange CouncilBusiness1n/a
American Petroleum InstituteBusiness2n/a
American SpectatorPolitical1n/a
American Turkish Council/Turkey-U.S. Business CouncilBusiness1n/a
Artisan Business Group/American Center for the Belt and Road InitiativeBusiness1n/a
Ax PACPolitical1$974
Bergmann for Congress 2018Political1$305
Big Dog Ranch RescueCharity1n/a
Biggs for CongressPolitical1$268
Bill Shuster for CongressPolitical6$31,962
Billy Graham Evangelistic AssociationReligious1n/a
Blueprint 2025 Infrastructure Leadership ForumBusiness1n/a
Bob Corker for Senate 2018Political1$1,052
Bold Conservatives PACPolitical6$3,046
Brady for CongressPolitical2$1,890
British-American Business AssociationBusiness1n/a
Celebration of MotherhoodReligious1n/a
Chicago Police DepartmentState/local government1n/a
Citizens For TurnerPolitical6$1,196
Clare Boothe Luce Policy InstitutePolitical1n/a
Claudia Tenney for CongressPolitical1$790
Collins for CongressPolitical2$795
Committee on Arrangements for the 2016 Republican National ConventionPolitical1$282
Committee to Re-Elect Trent Franks to CongressPolitical1$2,154
Community Financial Services AssociationBusiness1n/a
Connecticut Republican PartyPolitical1$945
Conservative RoundtablePolitical2$423
Continuing America's Strength And Security PACPolitical1$75
Crawford for CongressPolitical1$1,560
Culberson for CongressPolitical1$701
Deloitte Global Financial Services SummitBusiness1n/a
Denham for CongressPolitical1$874
Domestic Energy Producers AllianceBusiness1n/a
Duffy For WisconsinPolitical2$782
Duncan D. Hunter for CongressPolitical3$1,016
Dutch Sheets MinistriesReligious1n/a
Elect Blake Farenthold CommitteePolitical1$268
Embassy of Azerbaijan/Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish OrganizationsForeign1n/a
Embassy of BahrainForeign1n/a
Embassy of KuwaitForeign1n/a
Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaForeign1$270,000
Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines
Family-PAC FederalPolitical3$3,183
First Annual Kosher Food Bank Benefit: Heroes of the HolocaustCharity1n/a
First Liberty InstituteReligious1n/a
FLC GroupBusiness1n/a
Foundation for Liberty and American GreatnessPolitical1n/a
Freedom FundPolitical1$239
Friends Of Jim InhofePolitical1$105
Fund for American StudiesPolitical1n/a
Future of Technology ConferenceBusiness1n/a
GEO GroupBusiness1n/a
Gibbons For OhioPolitical1$715
Government of ChinaForeign1n/a
Government of JapanForeign2n/a
Government of MalaysiaForeign1n/a
Government of RomaniaForeign1n/a
Graves for CongressPolitical1$85
Great America CommitteePolitical2$116,927
Great America PACPolitical4$468
Greg Pence for CongressPolitical5$13,374
Gregg Harper for CongressPolitical1$1,697
Handel for Congress, Inc.Political2$271
Heritage FoundationPolitical1n/a
Illinois Republican PartyPolitical1$214
Independent Petroleum Association of America Business1n/a
Industrial Truck AssociationBusiness1n/a
Institute of International BankersBusiness1n/a
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Religious1n/a
International Menarini FoundationBusiness1n/a
Jeff PACPolitical1$506
Jefferson Chamber of CommerceBusiness1n/a
Jet PACPolitical3$1,213
John James For Senate IncPolitical1$478
John Kennedy For UsPolitical1$1,850
Johnson for CongressPolitical1$333
Judicial WatchPolitical1n/a
Justice For CyprusForeign1n/a
Kansans For MarshallPolitical3$683
Kansas Leadership PACPolitical2$2,215
Keep America Rolling PACPolitical1$1,204
Ken Calvert for Congress CommitteePolitical1$320
Kenny Marchant for CongressPolitical1$144
Kevin Mccarthy for CongressPolitical1$230
Kinzinger for CongressPolitical1$937
Larry H. Miller Group of CompaniesBusiness1n/a
Live Out Loud With Brooke ThomasBusiness1n/a
Log Cabin RepublicansPolitical1n/a
Louisiana AG Jeff LandryState/local government1n/a
Louisiana Association of Business and IndustryBusiness1n/a
Luke's WingsCharity2n/a
MacArthur VictoryPolitical1$15,221
MAGA CoalitionPolitical1n/a
MAGA SummitPolitical1n/a
Maine Gov. Paul LePage and staffState/local government1n/a
Make California Great PACPolitical1n/a
Manusec SummittBusiness1n/a
Marino for CongressPolitical2$585
Mccaul for Congress, IncPolitical1$7,586
Mckinley for CongressPolitical1$846
Meadows for CongressPolitical4$2,415
Metals Service Center InstituteBusiness1n/a
Mike Kelly for CongressPolitical2$952
Mr. Southern Missourian In The House PACPolitical1$785
Museum of the BibleReligious1n/a
National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) PACPolitical1$849
National Confectioners AssociationBusiness3n/a
National Defense University FoundationEducation1n/a
National Drug & Alcohol Screening AssociationBusiness1n/a
National Funeral Directors AssociationBusiness1n/a
National Mining AssociationBusiness1n/a
National Railroad Construction and Maintenance AssociationBusiness1n/a
National Real Estate Developers Association (NAIOP) D.C./Maryland chapterBusiness1n/a
National Republican Congressional CommitteePolitical5$3,247
National Republican Senatorial CommitteePolitical6$26,053
Nebraska Republican PartyPolitical1$988
Network of Enlightened WomenPolitical1n/a
Nevada Republican Central CommitteePolitical1$854
New Jersey Republican State CommitteePolitical4$2,654
Omar Navarro for CongressPolitical11$8,860
One Georgia PACPolitical3$728
Oral Roberts UniversityEducation1n/a
Orange County Association of RealtorsBusiness1n/a
Order of St. Andrew the ApostleReligious1n/a
Orphan’s PromiseReligious1n/a
Oxbow Carbon LLCBusiness1n/a
Palazzo for CongressPolitical1$394
Palm Beach Hedge Fund AssociationBusiness1n/a
Paralyzed Veterans of AmericaCharity2n/a
Pat Meehan for CongressPolitical1$225
PenFed FoundationCharity1n/a
Pension BridgeBusiness1n/a
Pete King for Congress CommitteePolitical1$118
Pompeo For Kansas, Inc.Political1$257
Protect The HousePolitical3$4,300
Rand Paul For Us SenatePolitical1$513
Randy Hultgren for CongressPolitical1$291
Rebuilding America NowPolitical5$1,151
Reinventing A New Direction Political Action CommitteePolitical8$1,982
Republican Attorneys General AssociationPolitical2n/a
Republican Governors AssociationPolitical1n/a
Republican Jewish CoalitionReligious1n/a
Republican National CommitteePolitical51$967,153
Republican Party Of IowaPolitical1$945
Republican Party Of KentuckyPolitical1$687
Republican Party Of Minnesota - FederalPolitical3$1,954
Republican Party of Palm Beach CountyPolitical1n/a
Revival Outside the WallsReligious1n/a
Robert Aderholt for CongressPolitical2$2,149
Roger Williams For U S Congress CommitteePolitical2$6,221
Rohrabacher for CongressPolitical4$12,545
Rounds For SenatePolitical1$592
Seasonal Employment AllianceBusiness1n/a
Senate Leadership FundPolitical1n/a
Sovereign Nations ConferencePolitical1n/a
Steve Daines For MontanaPolitical1$281
Stewart For Senate IncPolitical13$2,008
Ted Yoho for CongressPolitical1$1,259
Tenn Political Action Committee Inc (Tenn PAC)Political2$928
Texans For Jodey ArringtonPolitical3$16,603
Texans For Lamar SmithPolitical1$479
The CallReligious1n/a
The Committee To Defend The PresidentPolitical1$687
The Peter Norbeck Leadership PACPolitical1$3,423
Tom Reed for CongressPolitical1$242
Tom Rice for CongressPolitical3$2,315
Tom Rooney for CongressPolitical2$359
Trump Make America Great Again CommitteePolitical1$1,145
Trump VictoryPolitical1$2,806
Trumpettes USAPolitical1n/a
Truth About Israel GalaReligious1n/a
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100Business1n/a
U.S. Energy AssociationBusiness1n/a
U.S. Travel AssociationBusiness1n/a
United in PurposePolitical1n/a
University of WisconsinState/local government1n/a
Valadao for CongressPolitical1$1,744
Vapor Technology AssociationBusiness1n/a
Virginia Women for TrumpPolitical2n/a
Walden for CongressPolitical2$6,708
Walorski for Congress IncPolitical2$1,271
Washington Area Concierge AssociationBusiness1n/a
Washington State Republican PartyPolitical3$1,966
Watergen USABusiness1n/a
West Virginia Republican Party, Inc.Political1$800
Wyoming Republican Party, Inc.Political1$508
Yellow Ribbon FundCharity1n/a
Yoder for Congress, IncPolitical1$354
Young AdventurersCharity1n/a
Young America's FoundationPolitical1n/a
Young Republican National FederationPolitical1n/a