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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump inaugural fund looted to benefit Melania’s pal

New company formed just in time to grab $26 million
Image result for Stephanie Winston Wolkoff & Melania
The Trumps with Melania's pal Stephanie Winston Wolkoff who got
$26 million to work on Trump's inauguration
After months of pressure to release details of how President Trump’s inaugural committee spent the record $107 million that it raised, some details have come out in a mandatory IRS filing by the non-profit group.

The big surprise is that $26 million went to an event planning firm started by an adviser to First Lady Melania Trump, which had been launched shortly before the ceremony, parade, balls and other events in December 2016, according to the New York Times. 

Only about $5 million has been donated to charity, according to the 116-page filing, which is far less than expected since the committee had pledged that all excess funds would go to non-profits and charities. 

The $107 million raised from wealthy donors and corporations was about twice what President Obama spent on his inaugural in 2009, but the filing indicates that the cost for Trump’s swearing-in and the wrap up was higher than expected.

The committee also failed to sell broadcast rights to the inaugural balls as it had expected.

The committee also spent more than anticipated on administrative costs, including $4.6 million on salaries and benefits for 208 employees, $500,000 on legal fees and $9.4 million on travel. 

The inauguration cost nearly $51 million, which was mostly split between two companies, one of which was WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, California, which was started in December 2016 by a longtime friend of Melania Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a person familiar with the firm told the New York Times.


“Ms. Winston Wolkoff made her name planning Manhattan society galas and has subsequently been brought on as a senior advisor to the first lady’s official government office,” reports the New York Times.

A spokesperson for Melania Trump said he had no involvement with the inaugural committee and does not know how funds were spent.

The spokesperson did add that Winston Wolkoff is not being paid for her work in the first lady’s office and she is classified as a “special government employee.”

Much of the money paid to Winston Wolkoff’s firm and a second event production company, Hargrove Inc. of Latham, Maryland, which got $25 million, was a pass through – meaning it went to pay other subcontractors for services, goods, and planning.

Wolkoff was personally paid $1.62 million for her work, a committee official said. 

Wolkoff’s firm also paid the team put together by TV producer Mark Burnett, creator of “The Apprentice,” who was involved at the request of President Trump.

David Monn of New York, known for high society events and some state dinners, was paid $3.7 million, and Production Resource Group of New Windsor, N.Y was paid $2.7 million.

The committee also spent $4.1 million on ticketing and $560,000 on promotional gifts.

The $5 million that has gone to charities and non-profits went to six organizations. They are the White House Historical Association ($1 million), the Vice President’s Residence Foundation ($750,000), the Smithsonian Institution ($250,000), The American Red Cross ($1 million), the evangelical group Samaritan’s Purse ($1 million) and the Salvation Army ($1 million).

The inaugural committee split the costs of many of the festivities with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which is taxpayer-funded, as well as various state, federal and local government agencies.

Security costs of over $100 million are also being paid by the federal government. 

The tax filing lists donors but many names are redacted. Among those known to have made donations were Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson ($5 million) and corporations including Boeing, Chevron, and AT&T.

Some expenses were listed in the tax filing as in-kind donations. Those included a musical performance valued at $729,000 and vehicle and equipment expenses of $631,000.

A concert on the National Mall which the New York Times reports was criticized for its extravagance featured performances by country music star Toby Keith and the rock group Three Doors Down, at a reported cost of $25 million. 

Trump had a hard time recruiting well-known talent to appear at his events, unlike President Obama who had an all-star turnout.

As of the end of October 2017, the committee still had $2.8 million in the bank. After final expenses, the rest will be donated to charity according to the filing.

So after months of delays in reporting, the inauguration of Trump as president raised the most money ever, and was very costly, and in the end did not donate to charity as expected. 

BENJAMIN LOCKE IS A RETIRED COLLEGE PROFESSOR WITH AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN INDUSTRIAL LABOR AND RELATIONS FROM CORNELL UNIVERSITY AND AN MBA FROM THE EUROPEAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT.