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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How the Trump campaign scam works

The release of campaign financial filings revealed a curious fact about Donald Trump. He may end up enriching himself, his family, and his far-flung enterprises by running for president. 

The New York Times reported the story with an air of amazement at Trump’s brazen self-dealing. This is no ordinary campaign.

“Donald J. Trump regularly boasts that he is self-funding his presidential bid, but new campaign finance filings show that he is also shifting plenty of money back to himself in the process.

According to documents submitted to the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Trump, whose campaign has just $1.3 million cash on hand, paid at least $1.1 million to his businesses and family members in May for expenses associated with events and travel costs. The total represents nearly a fifth of the $6 million that his campaign spent in the month.

The spending raised eyebrows among campaign finance experts and some of Mr. Trump’s critics who have questioned whether the presumptive Republican nominee, who points to his business acumen as a case for his candidacy, is trying to do what he has suggested he would in 2000 when he mulled making an independent run: “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”

He could end up turning a profit if he repaid himself for the campaign loans,” said Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance expert with the Campaign Legal Center. “He could get all his money back plus the profit margin for what his campaign has paid himself for goods and services.”

While most candidates list an array of vendors providing goods and services on their filings, Mr. Trump’s is packed with payments to his various clubs and buildings, his fleet of planes and his family. 

The self-proclaimed billionaire is required by law to account for his spending this way to prevent his companies from making illegal corporate donations to his campaign. In 2015, about $2.7 million was paid to at least seven companies Mr. Trump owns or to people who work for his real estate and branding empire, repaying them for services provided to his campaign.

In May, the biggest-ticket item was Mr. Trump’s use of the Mar-a-Lago Club, his Florida resort, which was paid $423,000. The campaign paid $350,000 to TAG Air for his private airplanes, $125,000 to Trump Restaurants and more than $170,000 to Trump Tower, the Manhattan skyscraper that houses the campaign’s headquarters.

Another article reviewed the same reports:

Timothy P. Carney writes in the “Washington Examiner” that Trump’s campaign is looking more and more like a grand con game designed to enrich Donald Trump.

Carney writes:

Donald Trump is a con man, and if you support him for president, you are his latest mark.

Commentators have been warning voters of this obvious scam for months. Trump’s latest campaign filing makes it clear. The man is unwilling or unable to do what it takes to win a general election, and a huge portion of the money he does raise flows straight into the companies he owns.

Carney learned from Trump’s required campaign disclosures that a surprising amount of the money spent by the campaign has gone to Trump businesses.

Trump’s campaign spent $6.7 million in May — more than it raised. And a lot of that money was spent on, well, Donald Trump.

As the Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie reported, Trump’s campaign spent more than $1 million of that money on Trump companies’ products and services last month, “for facilities rental, catering, monthly rents and utilities at more than a half-dozen Trump-owned companies and properties.” The amount “includes nearly $350,000 that the Trump campaign paid a Trump-owned company, TAG Air, for the use of Trump’s private jets and helicopters.”

The Associated Press found that Trump’s campaign has spent $6 million since it began at Trump businesses….

A final detail: Trump’s campaign is $45.7 million in debt (which, you may note, is a lot more than its $1.3 million cash on hand). And all of that debt is owed to … Donald J. Trump.

That means that every penny of the next $45.7 million in donations to the Trump campaign could literally go directly to Trump’s personal bank accounts before this is all over.

Trump has said he’s funding his own campaign. If he were really doing that, he would forgive his campaign’s debt to Trump, thus freeing up future campaign contributions for the actual campaign. But does that seem like something Trump would do?

Well, actually, yes. Big Republican donors have class send their wallets for fear that their gifts would go to repay Trump personally. Yesterday Trump announced that he would not require the campaign to repay the $50 million that he loaned it. This might open some of those pockets.