By Alan Zibel
One year of Trump. One year of unprecedented conflicts of interest.
Donald Trump’s sprawling set of businesses – and his refusal to divest his financial interests in hotels, golf courses, restaurants and real estate developments around the world – has presented a unique set of conflicts that previously were unimaginable for the president of the United States.
Never before has a president owned a private club in Florida that hiked its membership fees shortly after the president took office and sold $750 tickets to a New Year’s party. Never before has the president of the United States owned an international real estate empire that’s deeply entangled with foreign governments and sold dozens of condominiums to secretive buyers.
While some of Donald Trump’s businesses, such as his hotel in Washington, D.C. have clearly been helped by his presidency, others such as hotel ventures in New York and Toronto have been hurt by his infamy. But most alarming are the array of interest groups trying to cozy up to Trump by spending money at his properties.
Public Citizen has documented (press release here) 64 instances of trade groups, companies, religious groups, charities, foreign governments, interest groups, and political candidates staying in Trump properties or having events there. Examples range from the American Petroleum Institute to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to a conference for the vaping industry. The visitors identified through an analysis of media stories and disclosure filings include:
- 35 political candidates or political organizations
- 16 trade or interest groups
- 4 charities, including one run by Donald Trump’s son, Eric.
- 4 foreign governments
- 3 religious groups
- 2 individual companies
- 1 college football team
Why does this matter? Trump’s investments still benefit Donald Trump. A year ago, Trump released a plan purportedly addressing conflicts of interest created by simultaneously overseeing the government and owning a business empire. Instead of fully divesting from his businesses, as called for by ethics experts, good government watchdogs, and the Office of Government Ethics, Trump promised to simply “isolate” himself from the management of the Trump Organization, putting his sons in charge of the day-to-day operations of the company, while Trump’s businesses were reshuffled into holding companies held by a trust controlled by Trump himself.
The Trump International Hotel which opened before the 2016 election, was constructed in a public building just blocks from the White House, resulting in highly unusual situation of a president deriving financial benefit from a private business used by entities with business before the U.S. government. Seventeen members of Congress, represented by Public Citizen, have sued to challenge a decision by the U.S. General Services Administration to withhold documents relating to Trump’s lease on a federal building.
As USA Today’s opinion editors wrote in November, “lobbyists, corporations, foreign investors or anyone else looking to curry favor with Trump can go the direct route. They can join one of Trump’s luxury golf clubs where he dines, golfs and holds court on many weekends. Or purchase a condo, penthouse or mansion from the Trump Organization, or make use of the Trump International Hotel just down the street from the White House.”
Trump’s political organization has continued to spend money at Trump properties, with five Trump-affiliated groups spending nearly $750,000 at Trump properties in the first three quarters of 2017, according to a Public Citizen analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
Meanwhile, Trump’s businesses have been marketing themselves to (and profiting from) the president’s most avid fans. Those include the Trumpettes, a group of wealthy women who are ardent supporters of the president who are holding a Jan. 18 “Red, White and Blue Celebration” in honor of Trump’s first year in office. Trump fans can chew on a waygu ribeye at Washington, D.C.’s BLT Prime by David Burke or enjoy a $235 “energy and balancing ritual” at The Spa By Ivanka Trump — or even have a wedding at Trump’s New Jersey golf club.
Companies with major financial interests at stake with the federal government have been big users of Trump properties. Corporate interests who have held or are planning to hold events at Trump-owned locations include the National Mining Association , the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and GEO Group, a private prison company that benefited from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ reversal of an Obama-era decision to phase out private prisons. GEO Group donated $225,000 (see here and here) to a super-PAC supporting Trump, despite a federal ban on political donations by government contractors, according to a complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center.
Meanwhile, foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Kuwait haven’t hesitated to book rooms and hold events at Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel, effectively paying tribute to Trump by frequenting his properties. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Tom MacArthur (R-N.J) and Jodey Arrington have all held fundraisers at Trump properties, and many more lawmakers have held smaller events.
NOTE: The information in this report comes from news stories as well as Federal Election Commission records for political expenditures above $100 including events, food, lodging, rent and travel expenses at Trump properties. Dates refer to event date and dates of disbursement as recorded in FEC’s database. The full spreadsheet with sources is available here.
|Name||Description||Category||Location(s)||State||Date(s) of event/disbursement||Event/Spending Description||Spending|
|Alex Mooney for Congress||Group supporting Rep. Alex Mooney (R., WV)||Political||Trump Hotel Blt Prime||DC||6/19/2017; 7/5/2017||Food/Beverage||$507|
|American Land Title Association||Trade group for title industry||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump National Doral||FL||10/10/2017-10/13/2017||ALTA-One||n/a|
|American Legislative Exchange Council||Connservative group focused on state legislatures||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||9/26/2018||ALEC 45th Anniversary Gala||n/a|
|American Petroleum Institute||Oil industry trade group||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||3/23/2017||Board Meeting (meetings with Pruitt and Zinke)||n/a|
|American Turkish Council/Turkey-U.S. Business Council||Groups promoting business between U.S. and Turkey||Foreign Government||Trump International Hotel||DC||5/21-2017||36th Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations||n/a|
|Big Dog Ranch Rescue||Animal welfare group||Charity||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||3/10/2018||Wine Women & Shoes benefiting Big Dog Ranch Rescue ( Lara Trump is co-chair of event)||n/a|
|Bill Shuster For Congress||Group supporing Rep. Bill Shuster (R.-Pa)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||4/7/2017||Facility rental||$6,038|
|Billy Graham Evangelistic Association||Christian group started by Billy Graham in 1950||Religious Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||5/12/2017||World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians||n/a|
|Bob Corker For Senate 2018 Inc||Group supporting Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.) Trump supporter turned critic||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||1/3/2017||Lodging||$1,052|
|Citizens For Turner||Group supporting Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||8/15/2017/; 9/15/2017||Meeting- Food and Beverage||$329|
|Community Financial Services Association||Payday lender trade group||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump National Doral||FL||4/16-4/19/2018||Annual conference||n/a|
|Crawford For Congress||Group supporting Rep. Rick Crawford (R.-Ark)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||2/6/2017||Lodging||$1,560|
|Culberson For Congress||Group supporting Rep. John Culberson (R.-Texas)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||6/9/2017||Event food and beverage||$701|
|Curetivity||Charity formerly known as Eric Trump Foundation||Charity||Trump National Golf Club||NY||9/18/2017||Fundraiser||n/a|
|Denham For Congress||Group supporting Rep. Jeff Denham (R.-Calif.)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||9/13/2017||Fundraiser||$874|
|Duffy For Wisconsin||Group supporting Rep. Sean Duffy (R.-Wis)||Political||Trump Hotel Blt Prime||DC||3/20/2017||Food/beverage||$492|
|Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia||Saudi government||Foreign Government||Trump International Hotel||DC||Unknown||Unknown||$270,000|
|GEO Group||Private prison company with close ties to Trump administration||Company||Trump National Doral||FL||10/2017||Annual leadership conference||n/a|
|Government of Malaysia||Malaysian government||Foreign Government||Trump International Hotel||DC||9/12/2017||Prime Minister Najib Razak visit to DC||n/a|
|Handel For Congress Inc.||Group supporting Rep. Karen Handel (R.-Ga.) won 6/20/17 special election||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||7/7/2017||Food/bevarage||$230|
|Industrial Truck Association||Trade group for makers of forklifts and other industrial equipment||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||6/12/2017||National Forklift Safety Day||n/a|
|John Kennedy for U.S.||Group supporting Sen. John Kennedy (R., La)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||8/31/2017||Lodging||$1,850|
|Kansans For Marshall||Group supporting Rep. Roger Marshall (R.-Kan.)||Political||Trump International Hotel||IL||5/17/2017||Travel||$397|
|Keep America Rolling PAC||PAC associated with Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||1/24/2017||Event expense||$1,204|
|Kevin McCarthy For Congress||Group supporting House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||1/13/2017||Lodging||$230|
|Kuwait Embassy||Kuwaiti government||Foreign Government||Trump International Hotel||DC||2/22/2017||Kuwait National Day||n/a|
|Log Cabin Republicans||LGBT conservative group||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||9/23/2017||40th Anniversary Celebration||n/a|
|Louisiana Association of Business and Industry||State business group||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||9/12/-9/13/2017||Federal outreach tour||n/a|
|Macarthur Victory||Group suporting Rep. Tom Macarthur (R., N.J);Raised more than $800,000 for MacArthur and GOP||Political||Trump National Golf Club||NJ||6/28/2017||Venue Rental/Catering||$15,221|
|Manusec Summitt||Cybersecurity event||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel and Tower - Chicago||IL||10/9-10/10/2018||Conference||n/a|
|Metals Service Center Institute||Metals industry trade association||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump National Doral||FL||5/7/2017-5/8/2017||Annual Meeting||n/a|
|Mike Kelly For Congress||Group supporting Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||6/26/2017||Food and beverages||$203|
|Museum of the Bible||Biblical history museum created by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green||Religious Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||11/16/2017||Dedication Gala||n/a|
|National Confectioners Association||Candy industry trade group||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump National Doral, Trump International Hotel||FL, DC||3/2017, 9/2017, 9/2018||Multiple Events||n/a|
|National Funeral Directors Association||Funeral home trade group||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||4/27/2017||Dinner & Keynote Address with Newt Gingrich||n/a|
|National Mining Association||Coal and mineral mining trade group||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||10/4/2017||Board Meeting||n/a|
|National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association||Trade group for railroad and rail transit construction industry||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||3/1/2017||Dinner||n/a|
|National Republican Congressional Committee||Political group supporting House Republicans||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||4/5/2017||Travel||$701|
|National Republican Senatorial Committee||Political group supporting Senate Republicans||Political||Trump Restaurants||NY||8/4/2017||Food/Beverage||$404|
|Omar Navarro For Congress||Challenger to Rep. Maxine Waters (D. Calif)||Political||Trump National Golf Course Los Angeles; Trump Internatonal Hotel Las Vegas||CA/NV||7/2017, 9/2017||Event rental/hotel||$8,452|
|Orphan’s Promise||Children's ministry of televangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network||Religious Group||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||2/17/2018||1st Annual Dream Gala||n/a|
|Oxbow Carbon LLC||Petroleum coke company founded by billionaire Bill Koch, a Trump supporter||Company||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||12/9/2017||Holiday Party||n/a|
|PenFed Foundation||Veterans organization||Charity||Trump International Hotel||DC||5/4/2017||Night of Heroes||n/a|
|Pete King For Congress Committee||Group supporting Rep. Peter King (R.-NY)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||1/23/2017||Meal||$118|
|Republican Attorneys General Association||Group of Republican Attorneys General||Political||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||11/10/2017||Reception Dinner at Mar-a-Lago Club teahouse||n/a|
|Republican Governors Association||Group of Republican Governors||Political||Trump National Doral||FL||5/16/2017||Corporate Policy Summit||n/a|
|Republican National Committee||National Republican Party||Political||Trump International Hotel-DC/Trump Cafe NY||DC||2/2017-10/2017||Venue rental, catering, food, travel||$177,104|
|Republican Party of Palm Beach County||Palm Beach Republican organizaiton||Political||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||3/16/2018||Palm Beach County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner||n/a|
|Rohrabacher For Congress||Group supporting Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R.-Calif)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||5/31/2017-7/6/2017||Event, room and catering||$12,545|
|Sheriff David Clarke For U.S. Senate (Official Draft Campaign)||Effort to draft Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to run for Senate. Called a "scam" by Clarke||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||3/1/2017||Meals, lodging||$3,009|
|Ted Yoho For Congress||Group supporting Rep. Ted Yoho (R.-Calif)||Political||Blt-Trump International Hotel||DC||6/14/2017||Event Catering||$1,259|
|Texans For Jodey Arrington||Group supporting Rep. Jodey Arrington (R.-Texas)||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||1/2/2017||Facility use, food and beverage||$9,678|
|The Fund for American Studies||Sponsors educational programs teaching "principles of limited government, free-market economics and honorable leadership"||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||9/28/2017||Defending Freedom Luncheon (featuring Neil Gorsuch)||n/a|
|Tom Rooney For Congress||Group supporting Rep. Tom Rooney (R., Fla.)||Political||Trump International Hotel||IL||9/1/2017||Lodging||$352|
|Trumpettes USA||Women's pro-Trump group||Political||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||1/18/2018||Red, White & Blue Celebration||n/a|
|Truth About Israel Gala||Remembrance of the 45th Anniversary of the 1972 Olympics killings Munich.||Trade Group/Interest Group||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||2/25/2018||Truth About Israel Gala||n/a|
|U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100||Chamber of Commerce executives from around U.S.||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump National Doral||FL||3/6-3/8/2018||Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100||n/a|
|University of Wisconsin||Football team||State Government||Trump National Doral||FL||12/23-12/30/2017||Lodging||$100,000|
|Valadao For Congress||Group supporting Rep. David Valadao (R.-Calif)||Political||Blt Trump International||DC||3/9/2017||Fundraiser||$1,744|
|Vapor Technology Association||Vaping industry trade group||Trade Group/Interest Group||Trump International Hotel||DC||7/18/2017||Vape & the FDA Conference||n/a|
|Washington State Republican Party||State Republican Party||Political||Trump International Hotel||DC||6/17/2017; 7/14/2017||Hotel||$1,712|
|Yoder For Congress, Inc||Group supporting Rep. Kevin Yoder (R.-Kan)||Political||Trump Hotel||IL||8/30/2017||Lodging||$354|
|Young Adventurers||Youth Mentoring Program||Charity||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||1/26/2018||Safari Night Ball||n/a|
|Young Republican National Federation||Organization for Republicans ages 18-40||Political||Mar-a-Lago Club||FL||11/12/2017||Event featuring Roger Stone, Joy Villa||n/a|