The election of the President of the United States is fast approaching. Anyone who desired to run for this office needed to think ahead. After all, there is a lot of planning that needs to go into a run for the highest political office in the country, let alone the fundraising that it necessitates. Apparently, Donald Trump knew all of this because he filed for reelection five hours after he was sworn in on Inauguration Day (The Week, January 27, 2017), the earliest of any other president in history (Forbes, February 27, 2018). By doing so, he was able to start fundraising before he even stepped foot into the White House. His first big fundraiser was held at the Trump International Hotel at $35,000 per person on January 28, 2017. (PBS NewsHour, January 28, 2017). That night, and over the months that followed. his campaign raised a lot of money, and it was free to spend it, and it did. If you contributed to the Trump 2020 campaign, do you know where your money went? It may surprise you.
Just between the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, less than half his time in office, the Trump campaign spent more than $16 million in legal fees, or roughly 10% of the campaign’s total spending, more than any other presidential campaign in history. In comparison, President George Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign spent $8.8 million, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign spent $6.5 million and President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign spent $5.5 million. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has spent roughly $1.3 million on legal services this cycle (OpenSecrets.org). Since Trump took office, his campaign has helped pay legal fees for associates caught up in high-profile lawsuits and investigations. He has also used campaign funds in litigation against the press, in attempts to remove anti-Trump political ads, and to intimidate news outlets that air those ads with costly lawsuits.
Besides using campaign money for legal expenses, Trump has used the campaign money to line his and his family’s pockets. Although he is allegedly (we still haven’t seen his tax returns) the richest president in American history, he has not donated any of his own money to his campaign. But he doesn’t mind using other people’s money. According to an article in the August 25, 2020 edition of Forbes, he has delivered $2.3 million of contributions from his 2020 campaign into his private companies. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, in July 2020 alone, he received $38,000 from campaign money via Trump Tower Commercial LLC (the Republican National Committee also spent $225,000 there), $8, 000 via the Trump corporation ($281,000 since he took office), $3,000 via Trump Restaurants LLC ($226,000 since he took office), and $1,000 via the Trump Hotel Collection ($226,000 since Inauguration Day). Oh, let’s not forget his golf courses. The Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, received $12,000 from the campaign and $75,000 from the Trump Victory Fund.
According to the report in Forbes, “The president’s total haul — from his campaign, party and joint fundraising committees [since he announced his campaign] — now stands at more than $6.9 million.” I’m sure he appreciates every dollar you have contributed that went to make him richer.
But there is more. According to an article in the July 28, 2020 edition of Business Insider, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that states “the Trump campaign and Trump Make America Great Again Committee disguised nearly $170 million of campaign spending by laundering the funds through firms headed by Trump’s recent campaign manager, Brad Parscale… These schemes have disguised millions in payments to Trump family members or senior campaign staff like Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle.”
So where does much of your campaign donation go? To lawyers and the Trump clan. To me, that is deceitful and illegal, if not outright corruption.
Hank Cetola is a professor emeritus at Adrian College and the founder of Lenawee Indivisible. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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