Political campaigns can be a great way to make a living. This one is proving especially true for the grifter in chief.
David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post has been following the money in reporting on President Donald Trump. Last week, Fahrenthold discovered that Trump’s ability to use his high office to enrich his own Trump Organization has reached new highs, or lows if one applies an integrity lens.
Unlike during the 2016 campaign when fundraising was a chaotic enterprise, this year’s effort has put nearly $300 million into the war chest.
According to records Fahrenthold found, the Trump campaign paid Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club roughly $380,000 for “facility rental/catering services” for a two day “donor retreat.” The campaign also pays $38,000 a month in rent in the New York City Trump Tower, which is not even the president’s campaign headquarters.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, non-partisan watchdog, reported on OpenSecrets.org that in this election cycle almost $4 million was steered to Trump businesses and properties by the campaign, the Republican Party and political action committees.
Neither the Trump Organization nor government agencies, which are supposed to be transparent about how they spend their budgets, will say how much has been paid to Trump businesses over the past three-plus years by government agencies. Fahrenthold’s examination of individual reports shows at least $970,000 to Trump businesses for room rentals alone, sometimes for as much as $650 a night at Mar-a-Lago.
A recent attempt to line Trump’s pockets failed, but not without consequences. Trump asked and the American ambassador agreed to urge the British government to host the British Open at Turnberry, Trump’s golf course in Scotland. They said no, but the damage to American diplomacy and honor was done.
The level of conflict of interest of this request, and all the other business dealings, would send any other elected, appointed, or hired government employee to jail. Presidents and vice presidents, however, are specifically exempt from conflict of interest statutes.
The honor system and oaths of office were assumed to be enough to prevent outright corruption by the nation’s chief executive. President Trump has turned that reliance into a fantasy.
If candidates enrich themselves from donor funds, let the donors beware. Enriching himself from his public office is a pattern with Trump. With taxpayers footing the bill, it’s not a private affair.
Conflict of interest laws should be changed to apply to any person and any transaction that involves public money. No exceptions.