Since President Trump won last year’s election, his company — the Trump Organization — has experienced an increase in one particular line of business: hosting fundraisers and receptions for Republican lawmakers.
These events have mostly happened at Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, which opened last year. The luxe hotel has a large ballroom, two smaller banquet rooms and a BLT Prime steakhouse. It was designed to attract campaign fundraisers, even if Trump had not won the White House.
He did. And Trump made the controversial decision to maintain ownership of his businesses as president, even as he handed day-to-day control to his adult sons.
That arrangement has made 2017 a fascinating experiment: How would the fundraising circuit change now that legislators had the option of spending their campaign dollars with an incumbent president?
Between Election Day 2016 and the end of September of this year, federal political committees reported paying at least $1.27 million to Trump entities, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Not a dollar has come from any Democrats.
Among congressional Republicans, 40 have spent campaign or leadership PAC money at Trump properties, including the D.C. hotel and other hotels and golf clubs throughout the country. The Trump Organization declined to comment.
The president’s business has not upended the established fundraising business in Washington: GOP legislators, for instance, have still spent more campaign and PAC money at the Charlie Palmer steakhouse on Capitol Hill than at all the Trump properties in 2017.
Below are the 10 national Republican officials who have spent the most at Trump properties since Election Day 2016 — and the congressional candidate who has spent the most at the president’s venues.
Among Republican politicians, Donald Trump’s best customer this year — by far — has been Donald Trump.
President 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. His campaign has paid $482,371 for rent at Trump Tower in New York. It paid $22,700 for stays at the Trump hotel in D.C. It spent $2,596 on “office supplies” from Trump Ice, a bottled-water company.
In addition, the Republican National Committee spent $176,738 at Trump properties this year, including $122,000 to host a fundraiser headlined by the president at the Trump hotel in Washington in June.
Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.)
Arrington is a freshman representative from West Texas. In January, he 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. At the time, it set a record: the most expensive event ever held by another GOP politician at the new Trump hotel.
Ten months later, the record stands. No other GOP lawmaker has reported holding an event this expensive at Trump’s D.C. hotel.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.)
This summer, MacArthur’s 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 House bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care law — by publicly calling it “mean.” MacArthur’s staff did not respond to requests for comment.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
In June, Rohrabacher held a fundraiser in the Franklin Study at Trump’s Washington hotel that drew about 75 people.
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 criminal record?” Rohrabacher asked the crowd. His campaign paid for the event.
Joel Pitkin, a spokesman for Rohrabacher’s campaign, said the event raised about $100,000. He said the site was not chosen as a favor to Trump.
“Not because he’s the president but just because his hotels and his properties are set to a standard that is very elegant,” Pitkin said.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)
Shuster’s campaign committee spent a combined $9,277 at the D.C. hotel and its BLT Prime steakhouse in March, April and early May. Campaign finance filings say the expenditures were for “event catering,” “meeting expense” and “event facility rental.” It was not clear whether the payments were for a single event or multiple events.
A few weeks later, Trump lent his support to an idea that Shuster had been pushing for years — privatizing the U.S. air traffic control system. In an East Room ceremony, Trump signed a memo and a letter to Congress endorsing the idea, as Shuster looked on.
“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. The plan later stalled in Congress.
Shuster did not respond to a request for comment.
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 last December at the BLT Prime steakhouse at Trump’s D.C. hotel.
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.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)
Walden, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, used campaign funds to pay for a fundraiser at BLT Prime in March and a meeting there in June.
Walden did not respond to requests for comment.
Fundraising records show that while he was one of the top spenders at the president’s hotel, Walden’s campaign also spent thousands at a number of other D.C. fundraising hot spots. He spent $7,729, for instance, at Mastro’s Steakhouse.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.)
Williams used campaign money to pay $3,286 for a “meal/meeting expense” at BLT Prime in May.
Williams did not respond to questions about that expenditure.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.)
Kelly, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in the House, has spent $2,154 from his campaign and his leadership PAC on events at Trump’s D.C. hotel and BLT Prime. In May, Kelly told the Washington Examiner he was frustrated with what he described as other Republicans’ insufficient support of Trump: “My request of my colleagues is, all the time, you keep pushing back against him. Why?”
“The congressman hosted several events for supporters who were excited to visit the venue,” said Thomas Qualtere, a spokesman for Kelly. Qualtere did not respond to follow-up questions asking about the nature of the events and Kelly’s reasons for choosing the Trump hotel.
Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.)
Kennedy, a freshman senator, spent $1,850 of his campaign’s money on lodging at the Trump hotel in Washington in late August, according to campaign finance reports.
Kennedy’s staff did not respond to questions about this expenditure.
Omar Navarro (R)
Navarro is a long-shot candidate from Los Angeles who is trying to unseat a frequent Trump critic: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Navarro also tried to beat Waters last year but lost in a landslide.
This year, Navarro’s campaign has shelled out $8,451 — about one-tenth of the campaign’s total spending — for expenses at Trump properties. He has paid for overnight stays at Trump’s Las Vegas hotel and for two fundraisers at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
“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.”
Navarro’s most recent fundraiser was held in the chandeliered Grand Ballroom at the Trump club. The event drew about 50 people. In his speech, Navarro sounded many Trumpian notes, deriding establishment politicians and promoting the idea of building a wall between the United States and Mexico.
“Not only do we have to build that wall, we have to also make sure there are [not] tunnels under that wall so people don’t go under that wall,” said the 28-year-old candidate, prompting cheers.
He was backed up by former Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned earlier this year after he was convicted of criminal contempt over his department’s treatment of immigrants.
“Who is my hero? Donald Trump,” Arpaio told the group in the largely empty ballroom.
The tab for the night, paid to the president’s club: $4,132.
Anu Narayanswamy in Washington and Rob Kuznia in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., contributed to this report.