From the moment Donald Trump descended on the golden escalator of Trump Towers to announce his candidacy, it’s been a given that his various holdings would play a pivotal role in his run for the presidency. What we didn’t know was that Donald Trump’s assets would serve as a loophole for taking donor’s money, win or lose. As he has said before, he loves a good loophole.
How has he accomplished this?
Trump has made frequent use of his properties in his presidential bid. In July, the campaign doled out $773,000 to reimburse various Trump-owned companies for expenses. The bulk of that went to TAG Air, the company that owns Trump’s private planes.
In all, nearly $7.7 million has been paid out to Trump companies or Trump family members to cover campaign expenditures, filings show.
Remember when Donald said that he was using his own money? Airplane? Trump left out the part about being reimbursed with campaign donations along the way. There isn’t anything wrong with being reimbursed for expenses. But to claim you aren’t while you are receiving them is another thing altogether. It also plays to his own best interests that he owns various buildings and other assets that he can use to keep the money in his own pocket though appearing to “spend” it on his campaign.
Documents submitted to the FEC showed that in June, Trump had just $1.3 million in cash on hand. This is meager unless you were running for House Representative. But he managed to pay $1.1 million to his businesses and family members in May for expenses he claims are related to his campaigning. And when he started fattening his coffers with a stronger push for donations, he decided to up his game.
The Huffington Post found that in order to really “profit” from these reimbursements, Trump nearly quintupled the rent he was paying for his campaign offices.
Why does this matter? Because he owns the space and his donors are picking up the “adjusted” rent payments.
The campaign paid Trump Tower Commercial LLC roughly $35,500 in March. This was the same amount paid last summer. In July, rent shot to $169,758, despite less personnel taking up space. This coincides with his other scheme of his recurring monthly donations that people couldn’t opt out of. Trump’s campaign had just 82 individuals on the payroll in July, up from 76 in June, an FEC report shows. At that time, all campaign employees could be adequately housed on part of one floor of Trump Towers, because typically, only a small portion of employees listed on the FEC reports usually work at the headquarters of any campaign.
By comparison, Hillary Clinton’s paid staff number around 702 (8 times the amount Trump lists). Her monthly costs for renting a Brooklyn office building with 80,000 square feet of space costs $212,000 per month.
Now Donald is renting an additional floor and a half of Trump Towers. The expansion is due to the anticipation of new staff members, according to officials. “The campaign expanded from part of a single floor by adding the entirety of two separate floors,” the campaign said in a statement.
“If you rent it, they will come” must be the new campaign motto.
Aside from the office space rental increase, other Trump businesses and assets received money through his campaign. Trump’s golf courses and restaurants were paid more than $260,000. Campaign filings are unclear as to the role of the golf courses or restaurants in his campaign or why they received money. Even his son, Eric’s, Virginia wine business benefitted from campaign money. Surprise, surprise!
According to Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance expert with the Campaign Legal Center, “He could end up turning a profit if he repaid himself for the campaign loans. He could get all his money back plus the profit margin for what his campaign paid himself for goods and services.”
Ryan went on to say, “We don’t have clear answers. Historically, candidates would separate themselves from their business interests when running for office. Trump has done the opposite by promoting his businesses while running for office.”
Trump’s finances have been in the spotlight recently because of his unwillingness to release his tax returns. What mystery is hidden in them? My guess would be that he doesn’t have the assets that he claims to have and that he pays little or nothing in taxes. Trump is known for requiring all properties sold, with the Trump name on them, to continue to carry that name regardless of who owned it in the future. All of this makes it appear that Trump has more assets than he actually does.
“Scam-like” business practices are not new ground for Trump. “The Donald” has an endless supply of lawsuits claiming he bamboozles contractors and business associates with regularity. Videos made by building contractors show a steady flow of underpayments and shafting.
In Trump’s own words (in the above video), he justifies backing out of deals, putting his company’s profits above its employees and workers and playing the savvy victim who manages to come out on top in the end.
What’s sickening is that it doesn’t seem to matter. He admittedly bankrupted his various companies four times to get out of paying contractors and laborers. It doesn’t seem to matter that Trump sends jobs overseas instead of having the work done by more “expensive” U.S. laborers. It doesn’t seem to matter that he’s had a string of unsuccessful businesses or that he has lawsuits numbering in the thousands. His supporters turn the other cheek.
When will it matter?
Maybe when his supporter’s wallets are finally and completely empty.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons–Michael Vadon