For President Trump’s party, the 2018 elections did not turn out as hoped.
But for President Trump’s company, they were a huge — and lucrative — success.
The Trump Organization took in $4.2 million from GOP candidates and campaign committees during the last two-year election cycle, according to campaign finance filings.
In that time, Trump’s best customer was a candidate who wasn’t even on the ballot in 2018: Trump himself. His 2020 reelection campaign spent $743,781 at Trump-owned properties since Inauguration Day, paying for rent at Trump Tower, for lodging at Trump’s D.C. hotel and for water from Trump Ice.
The Republican National Committee also held several major events at Trump’s D.C. hotel since he was elected to office, including a Christmas party in 2016 and a gala fundraiser in the summer.
In addition, at least 117 other Republican lawmakers and candidates spent campaign or PAC money at Trump properties. While the Trump hotel in Washington does not appear to have overtaken the traditional fundraising meccas — expensive restaurants close to Capitol Hill — it still took in $1.4 million from Republican candidates and other committees.
Not one dollar of campaign money was spent by Democrats at any Trump property, according to campaign finance filings.
For Trump’s GOP customers, spending at the president’s properties did not guarantee success in the midterms — or even a Trump endorsement. Out of the 10 House or Senate candidates who spent the most at Trump properties, four lost, and one retired.
Below are the Republican lawmakers and candidates in addition to Trump who have spent the most at his properties since Election Day 2016 — and a list of the biggest-spending GOP committees.
Among Republican politicians, Donald Trump’s best customer — by far — has been Donald Trump.
Trump, who began fundraising for his 2020 reelection on Inauguration Day, has spent heavily at Trump Organization properties through his campaign and two affiliated committees since Jan. 1, 2017. His campaign has paid $649,638 for rent at Trump Tower in New York. It paid $38,454 for stays at the Trump hotel in Washington. It spent $2,596 on “office supplies” from Trump Ice, a bottled-water company.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)
Outside of Trump himself, the GOP candidate who spent the most money at President Trump’s properties was Rep. Bill Shuster. His campaign committee spent $19,571 at Trump’s D.C. hotel on Nov. 30, 2017, saying in campaign filings that the money was for “event facility rental/catering.”
Shuster, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was hoping for Trump’s support on two issues. One was more spending on infrastructure. The other was privatizing the U.S. air traffic control system.
Trump lent some rhetorical support to both. The White House spent much of 2017 promising big plans for infrastructure spending. And in June 2017, Trump signed a memo endorsing privatization of air traffic control. “I have a feeling Shuster’s going to get the first pen. What do you think?” Trump asked the other Republicans gathered. Trump handed Shuster the pen as a souvenir.
But, in the end, neither of Shuster’s big dreams came true. In January 2018, he announced his retirement from Congress.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.)
Williams used campaign money to pay $3,286 for a “meal/meeting expense” at the BLT Prime steakhouse at Trump’s D.C. hotel in May 2017. He also spent $13,120 at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla., in April 2018.
In the midterm election, Williams was re-elected.
Greg Pence (R-Ind.)
The vice president’s brother, Greg Pence, who ran for the House seat previously held by his brother, spent $7,282 for hosting a fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The March event was headlined by Mike Pence, according to news reports. Greg Pence also spent heavily on lodging at the same hotel. Greg Pence won his election easily.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.)
MacArthur was a leading figure in the 2017 effort by congressional Republicans to repeal President Obama’s health-care law. Around the same time, MacArthur’s reelection campaign paid to rent a room for a fundraiser at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. The event’s headliner was Trump, who was spending the weekend at his home on the course.
MacArthur raised more than $700,000 at the event, according to news reports.
Just days after the fundraiser, Trump undercut MacArthur’s key legislative achievement — a repeal bill he had helped write, which had just passed the House — by publicly calling it “mean.”
In the 2018 midterms, MacArthur lost to Democratic challenger Andy Kim.
Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.)
In January 2017, the congressman from West Texas held a reception in the Franklin Study, a meeting room at Trump’s D.C. hotel, for 100-plus supporters who had come to see Arrington be sworn in.
The Trump hotel “happened to offer the best combination of size, price point, along with a convenient and historic location,” said Kate McBrayer, a spokeswoman for Arrington.
Arrington’s campaign spent more than $16,000 on the reception. His campaign has not spent money at a Trump property since then, according to the latest filings. In the 2018 midterms, Arrington easily won reelection in a heavily Republican district.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
In June 2017, Rohrabacher held a fundraiser in the Franklin Study at Trump’s Washington hotel that drew about 75 people. His campaign said it raised about $100,000.
A video of the event, posted on Instagram, shows Rohrabacher talking about a major issue for him: marijuana legalization. “Why are we trying to ruin the lives of a million people because they had a . . . joint and ended up with a criminal record?” Rohrabacher asked the crowd. His campaign paid for the event.
In the 2018 midterms, Rohrabacher lost to Democratic challenger Harley Rouda.
Was the spending at Trump’s hotel a poor use of campaign money because it alienated voters who don’t like the president?
Jason Pitkin, a spokesman for Rohrabacher’s campaign, said no.
“I think he had already been branded a Trump supporter and is committed to his Trump support,” Pitkin said. He said the Trump hotel provided superb service and was a draw for Republican donors. “If I have to do more events [in future campaigns], I would definitely select the Trump hotel,” Pitkin said.
Omar Navarro (R)
Navarro, a long-shot candidate who was trying to unseat Rep. Maxine Waters (D), held two fundraisers at Trump’s golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and spent $1,875 on visits to Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas.
“I support the president 100 percent,” Navarro said in an interview. “I’m going to do business with places that my political views are aligned with.”
He did not receive an endorsement from Trump. “That could happen,” Navarro said in the days before the election. “But that hasn’t obviously happened.”
In the midterm elections, Navarro lost to Waters by more than 50 percentage points.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
The House majority leader’s reelection committee purchased catering services at the Trump hotel in Washington in September.
Daryl Kipnis (R-N.J.)
Kipnis, a long-shot candidate running in a deep-blue district in New Jersey, spent $8,280 out of his tiny budget to hold a fundraiser at Trump’s Bedminster golf club this summer. He had hoped Trump himself might attend, but the president did not.
“It cost a lot,” Kipnis said. “It was certainly a little bit on the higher end, in terms of cost per person, but it brought in money.” Kipnis raised about $12,000, after he’d paid Trump’s bills. That wasn’t much to reach a district with more than 700,000 people.
The next time Kipnis held a fundraiser, it was at a pizza place.
In the midterm elections, he lost to incumbent Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) by 37 percentage points.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.)
McCaul, who advised Trump on homeland security issues during the 2016 race, used campaign funds to pay for a Christmas reception in 2016 at BLT Prime.
Around the same time, Trump was considering McCaul as a candidate for homeland security secretary. Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for McCaul, said McCaul did not choose the venue because it was owned by Trump.
“This venue was considered among others around town and picked for reasons such as the size, location and schedule,” Litzow said.
The homeland security job went instead to John Kelly, who later became White House chief of staff. McCaul remains in the House. His campaign spent no money at Trump properties in 2017, according to federal filings.
McCaul was reelected in November.
Party committees and political nonprofits
Republican National Committee and two joint fundraising committees with the Trump campaign
After Election Day 2016, the RNC paid for a large holiday party at Trump’s D.C. hotel. It spent about $117,000 to rent the venue — a considerable increase from the budget of past RNC holiday parties, which were held at a Capitol Hill bar called the Hawk ’n’ Dove. The 2014 holiday party at the bar, for instance, had cost just $29,000.
In summer 2017, the RNC paid for a gala fundraiser at Trump’s D.C. hotel that cost more than $167,000. Trump attended. The RNC said the cost for this event was equal to — or less than — similar events at other venues. For instance, the committee paid the U.S. government $276,000 to host a gala fundraiser in October at the federally owned Mellon Auditorium.
In January 2018 alone, the RNC spent $152,000 at Trump properties, including $62,000 at Mar-a-Lago for a gala fundraiser. Trump was scheduled to attend that event but skipped it because of a brief government shutdown.
Overall, in 2017 and 2018 combined, 10 percent of the money that the RNC spent for venue rentals and catering went to Trump properties. But the figure was much higher for January alone, when the RNC held that Mar-a-Lago event. In that month, 80% of its expenditures on venue and catering went to Trump properties.
Republican Governors Association
The governors’ association paid more than $400,000 to hold its 2017 spring meetings at Trump’s Doral golf resort, outside Miami. A spokesman for the group said the event was planned in early 2015, before Trump entered the presidential race. He said the group has not planned any future events at Trump properties.
America First Action
This pro-Trump super PAC paid to rent ballroom space at Trump’s D.C. hotel on four nights in December. Three of the events were after-parties, following official holiday events at the White House. The other was the super PAC’s own holiday party, which cost at least $19,000.
A spokeswoman said that the $29,331 paid in 2017 was only part of the cost: The super PAC paid more after the turn of the year.
Protect the House
This committee, set up by Republicans to protect their majority in the U.S. House, held a large event at Trump’s D.C. hotel and smaller events at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club and at Mar-a-Lago, records show.
Republicans later lost their majority in the House, as Democrats took more than 30 Republican-held seats.
Great America Committee
The committee started by Vice President Pence is the first of its kind by a sitting VP and is a fundraising vehicle for the Republican party. In the first quarter of 2018, the group has spent almost six figures for a fundraiser.
Republican Attorneys General Association
This group, which seeks to elect more Republicans as state attorneys general, held a dinner for donors at Mar-a-Lago in the fall and a holiday party at Trump’s D.C. hotel. That party cost about $38,000 — almost twice what the 2016 Christmas party had cost, when it was held at a different venue, Washington’s Willard InterContinental Hotel.
A spokesman said the cost was higher at the Trump event because more people attended. He said the group has not planned any other events at Trump-owned properties in 2018 or 2019.
National Republican Senatorial Committee
This committee, which seeks to elect or reelect Republicans to the Senate, sharply increased its spending at Trump-owned properties in 2018. Starting in February, the NRSC spent more than $20,000 on “food/beverage” at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington, including $11,796 on a single day in April. It also spent $5,000 on “catering/facility rental” at Mar-a-Lago in March.
Republicans appear to have added two seats, at least, to their 51-49 majority in the Senate. Republican candidates won Democratic-held Senate seats in Missouri, North Dakota, Florida and Indiana, while losing GOP-held seats in Nevada and Arizona.
National Republican Congressional Committee
This group, which seeks to elect Republicans to Congress, held two contests for its donors in which randomly chosen winners would get a free stay at Trump’s D.C. hotel. The group paid the Trump Organization $1,608 for their rooms. A spokesman for the GOP congressional committee said that these contests had drawn more interest from donors than similar ones in the past. Those had featured prizes like a lunch with now-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). But, until 2017, they hadn’t included a chance to stay at a Trump property.
In another such contest in 2018, the prize offered to donors was a stay at Trump’s winery outside Charlottesville.
House Majority Trust
Senate Leadership Fund
This super PAC was set up to boost Republicans in Senate elections. It spent $16,000 on rental and catering at Trump’s D.C. hotel during the summer of 2018.
Rob Kuznia in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., contributed to this report.
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