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 officialsfrom 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.

Name Category Spending Instances
Spending total
Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce Business 1 $0
Alabama Republican Party Political 1 $854
Alex Mooney for Congress Political 3 $610
Alliance Resource Partners LP Business 1 $0
Allign Technology Business 1 $0
America First Action, Inc. Political 31 $159,423
American Association of Orthodontists Business 1 $0
American Land Title Association Business 1 $0
American Legislative Exchange Council Business 1 $0
American Petroleum Institute Business 2 $0
American Spectator Political 1 $0
American Turkish Council/Turkey-U.S. Business Council Business 1 $0
Artisan Business Group/American Center for the Belt and Road Initiative Business 1 $0
Ax PAC Political 1 $974
Bergmann for Congress 2018 Political 1 $305
Big Dog Ranch Rescue Charity 1 $0
Biggs for Congress Political 1 $268
Bill Shuster for Congress Political 6 $31,962
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Religious 1 $0
Blueprint 2025 Infrastructure Leadership Forum Business 1 $0
Bob Corker for Senate 2018 Political 1 $1,052
Bold Conservatives PAC Political 6 $3,046
Brady for Congress Political 2 $1,890
British-American Business Association Business 1 $0
Celebration of Motherhood Religious 1 $0
Chicago Police Department State/local government 1 $0
Citizens For Turner Political 6 $1,196
Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute Political 1 $0
Claudia Tenney for Congress Political 1 $790
Collins for Congress Political 2 $795
Committee on Arrangements for the 2016 Republican National Convention Political 1 $282
Committee to Re-Elect Trent Franks to Congress Political 1 $2,154
Community Financial Services Association Business 1 $0
Connecticut Republican Party Political 1 $945
Conservative Roundtable Political 2 $423
Continuing America’s Strength And Security PAC Political 1 $75
Crawford for Congress Political 1 $1,560
Culberson for Congress Political 1 $701
Curetivity Charity 1 $0
Deloitte Global Financial Services Summit Business 1 $0
Denham for Congress Political 1 $874
Domestic Energy Producers Alliance Business 1 $0
Duffy For Wisconsin Political 2 $782
Duncan D. Hunter for Congress Political 3 $1,016
Dutch Sheets Ministries Religious 1 $0
Elect Blake Farenthold Committee Political 1 $268
Embassy of Azerbaijan/Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Foreign 1 $0
Embassy of Bahrain Foreign 1 $0
Embassy of Kuwait Foreign 1 $0
Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Foreign 1 $270,000
Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines Foreign 1 $0
Family-PAC Federal Political 3 $3,183
First Annual Kosher Food Bank Benefit: Heroes of the Holocaust Charity 1 $0
First Liberty Institute Religious 1 $0
FLC Group Business 1 $0
Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness Political 1 $0
Freedom Fund Political 1 $239
Friends Of Jim Inhofe Political 1 $105
Fund for American Studies Political 1 $0
Future of Technology Conference Business 1 $0
GEO Group Business 1 $0
Gibbons For Ohio Political 1 $715
Government of China Foreign 1 $0
Government of Japan Foreign 2 $0
Government of Malaysia Foreign 1 $0
Government of Romania Foreign 1 $0
Graves for Congress Political 1 $85
Great America Committee Political 2 $116,927
Great America PAC Political 4 $468
Greg Pence for Congress Political 5 $13,374
Gregg Harper for Congress Political 1 $1,697
Handel for Congress, Inc. Political 2 $271
Heritage Foundation Political 1 $0
Illinois Republican Party Political 1 $214
Immedis Business 1 $0
Independent Petroleum Association of America Business 1 $0
Industrial Truck Association Business 1 $0
Institute of International Bankers Business 1 $0
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Religious 1 $0
International Menarini Foundation Business 1 $0
Jeff PAC Political 1 $506
Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Business 1 $0
Jet PAC Political 3 $1,213
John James For Senate Inc Political 1 $478
John Kennedy For Us Political 1 $1,850
Johnson for Congress Political 1 $333
Judicial Watch Political 1 $0
Justice For Cyprus Foreign 1 $0
Kansans For Marshall Political 3 $683
Kansas Leadership PAC Political 2 $2,215
Keep America Rolling PAC Political 1 $1,204
Ken Calvert for Congress Committee Political 1 $320
Kenny Marchant for Congress Political 1 $144
Kevin Mccarthy for Congress Political 1 $230
Kinzinger for Congress Political 1 $937
Larry H. Miller Group of Companies Business 1 $0
Live Out Loud With Brooke Thomas Business 1 $0
Log Cabin Republicans Political 1 $0
Louisiana AG Jeff Landry State/local government 1 $0
Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Business 1 $0
Luke’s Wings Charity 2 $0
LuxRally Business 1 $0
MacArthur Victory Political 1 $15,221
MAGA Coalition Political 1 $0
MAGA Summit Political 1 $0
Maine Gov. Paul LePage and staff State/local government 1 $0
Make California Great PAC Political 1 $0
Manusec Summitt Business 1 $0
Marino for Congress Political 2 $585
Mccaul for Congress, Inc Political 1 $7,586
Mckinley for Congress Political 1 $846
Meadows for Congress Political 4 $2,415
Metals Service Center Institute Business 1 $0
Mike Kelly for Congress Political 2 $952
Mr. Southern Missourian In The House PAC Political 1 $785
Museum of the Bible Religious 1 $0
National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) PAC Political 1 $849
National Confectioners Association Business 3 $0
National Defense University Foundation Education 1 $0
National Drug & Alcohol Screening Association Business 1 $0
National Funeral Directors Association Business 1 $0
National Mining Association Business 1 $0
National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Business 1 $0
National Real Estate Developers Association (NAIOP) D.C./Maryland chapter Business 1 $0
National Republican Congressional Committee Political 5 $3,247
National Republican Senatorial Committee Political 6 $26,053
Nebraska Republican Party Political 1 $988
Network of Enlightened Women Political 1 $0
Nevada Republican Central Committee Political 1 $854
New Jersey Republican State Committee Political 4 $2,654
NRSC Political 1 $63
Omar Navarro for Congress Political 11 $8,860
One Georgia PAC Political 3 $728
Oral Roberts University Education 1 $0
Orange County Association of Realtors Business 1 $0
Order of St. Andrew the Apostle Religious 1 $0
Orphan’s Promise Religious 1 $0
Oxbow Carbon LLC Business 1 $0
Palazzo for Congress Political 1 $394
Palm Beach Hedge Fund Association Business 1 $0
Paralyzed Veterans of America Charity 2 $0
Pat Meehan for Congress Political 1 $225
PenFed Foundation Charity 1 $0
Pension Bridge Business 1 $0
Pete King for Congress Committee Political 1 $118
Pompeo For Kansas, Inc. Political 1 $257
Protect The House Political 3 $4,300
R2Con Business 1 $0
Rand Paul For Us Senate Political 1 $513
Randy Hultgren for Congress Political 1 $291
Rebuilding America Now Political 5 $1,151
Reinventing A New Direction Political Action Committee Political 8 $1,982
Republican Attorneys General Association Political 2 $0
Republican Governors Association Political 1 $0
Republican Jewish Coalition Religious 1 $0
Republican National Committee Political 51 $967,153
Republican Party Of Iowa Political 1 $945
Republican Party Of Kentucky Political 1 $687
Republican Party Of Minnesota – Federal Political 3 $1,954
Republican Party of Palm Beach County Political 1 $0
Revival Outside the Walls Religious 1 $0
Robert Aderholt for Congress Political 2 $2,149
Roger Williams For U S Congress Committee Political 2 $6,221
Rohrabacher for Congress Political 4 $12,545
Rounds For Senate Political 1 $592
Seasonal Employment Alliance Business 1 $0
Senate Leadership Fund Political 1 $0
Sovereign Nations Conference Political 1 $0
Steve Daines For Montana Political 1 $281
Stewart For Senate Inc Political 13 $2,008
Ted Yoho for Congress Political 1 $1,259
Tenn Political Action Committee Inc (Tenn PAC) Political 2 $928
Texans For Jodey Arrington Political 3 $16,603
Texans For Lamar Smith Political 1 $479
The Call Religious 1 $0
The Committee To Defend The President Political 1 $687
The Peter Norbeck Leadership PAC Political 1 $3,423
Tom Reed for Congress Political 1 $242
Tom Rice for Congress Political 3 $2,315
Tom Rooney for Congress Political 2 $359
Trump Make America Great Again Committee Political 1 $1,145
Trump Victory Political 1 $2,806
Trumpettes USA Political 1 $0
Truth About Israel Gala Religious 1 $0
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100 Business 1 $0
U.S. Energy Association Business 1 $0
U.S. Travel Association Business 1 $0
United in Purpose Political 1 $0
University of Wisconsin State/local government 1 $0
Valadao for Congress Political 1 $1,744
Vapor Technology Association Business 1 $0
Virginia Women for Trump Political 2 $0
Walden for Congress Political 2 $6,708
Walorski for Congress Inc Political 2 $1,271
Washington Area Concierge Association Business 1 $0
Washington State Republican Party Political 3 $1,966
Watergen USA Business 1 $0
West Virginia Republican Party, Inc. Political 1 $800
Wyoming Republican Party, Inc. Political 1 $508
Yellow Ribbon Fund Charity 1 $0
Yoder for Congress, Inc Political 1 $354
Young Adventurers Charity 1 $0
Young America’s Foundation Political 1 $0
Young Republican National Federation Political 1 $0
[table “62” not found /]

 

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