Before the 2016 campaign, President Trump’s businesses — including hotels, golf clubs and the Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida — had done a smattering of business with political candidates. A few fundraisers. A dinner here and there.
Now, Republicans have become some of his most reliable customers.
Since Trump won the 2016 election, his businesses have taken in $2.6 million from Republican candidates’ committees, super PACs and the main party committee, according to tax and campaign-finance filings.
Trump’s best customer has been Trump himself. His campaign spent $595,350 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 expensive events at Trump’s D.C. hotel since the election, including a Christmas party in 2016 and a gala fundraiser in the summer.
In addition, at least 78 other Republican lawmakers and candidates spent campaign or PAC money at Trump properties. While the Trump hotel does not appear to have overtaken the traditional fundraising meccas — expensive restaurants close to Capitol Hill — it still took in a total of $731,207 from Republican candidates and other committees.
Not one dollar was spent by Democrats at any Trump property in 2017 or so far in 2018, according to campaign-finance filings.
Below are the 10 Republican lawmakers and candidates in addition to Trump who have spent the most at Trump 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.
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, 2017. His campaign has paid $513,912 for rent at Trump Tower in New York. It paid $31,026 for stays at the Trump hotel in D.C. It spent $2,596 on “office supplies” from Trump Ice, a bottled-water company.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)
Shuster’s campaign committee spent $19,571 at Trump’s D.C. hotel on Nov. 30, saying in campaign filings that the money was for “event facility rental/catering.”
A spokesman for Shuster did not respond to questions about the nature of this event.
It appears to be the most expensive event hosted at the D.C. Trump hotel by a GOP candidate not named Donald Trump.
In the spring of 2017, Shuster’s campaign had spent $9,277 at the hotel and its BLT Prime steakhouse. Those expenses were described as “event catering,” “meeting expense” and “event facility rental.” It was not clear whether the payments were for a single event or multiple events.
Shuster, the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has been a strong supporter of Trump’s proposals to spend more money on infrastructure. Trump has also 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 last year, 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.
A little more than a month after Shuster’s last expenditure at the Trump hotel, he announced his retirement.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.)
MacArthur was a leading figure in last summer’s efforts by congressional Republicans to repeal President Obama’s health-care law. Around the same time, MacArthur’s re-election 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 author, which had just passed the House — by publicly calling it “mean.” MacArthur’s staff did not respond to requests for comment.
Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.)
Arrington is a freshman representative from West Texas. In January 2017, 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. His campaign has not spent money at a Trump property since then, according to the latest filings.
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.
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.
Greg Pence (R-Ind.)
The Vice President’s brother Greg Pence, who is running for the House seat previously held by his brother, spent $7,282 for hosting a fundraiser at the Trump International hotel in Washington D.C. The March event was headlined by Mike Pence, according to news reports. Greg Pence is running in Indiana’s sixth congressional district, where incumbent Rep. Luke Messer (R) gave up his seat to make an (unsuccessful) run for the Senate.
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 in 2016 but lost in a landslide.
Since then, Navarro’s 2018 campaign has paid more than $7,900 for meals and fundraiser events at Trump’s golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and $600-plus for hotel rooms at Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas.
In all, Navarro’s campaign has reported raising about $44,300 in contributions. He has spent 19 percent of that total at Trump-branded properties.
“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.”
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 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. His campaign spent no money at Trump properties in 2017, according to federal filings.
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.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.)
Williams used campaign money to pay $3,286 for a “meal/meeting expense” at BLT Prime in May 2017.
Williams did not respond to questions about that expenditure.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Paul, who has repeatedly played golf with Trump at the president’s club in Northern Virginia, spent a total of $406 on food and beverages during those visits. Paul’s political committee, Reinventing a New Direction PAC, paid the bills.
Paul also spent $2,088 on dinners at the BLT Prime steakhouse in Trump’s D.C. hotel. A spokesman for Paul said those were dinners that included Paul and campaign donors. “Frankly they have a great KC strip and an awesome bacon appetizer so I would go there anytime,” spokesman Doug Stafford wrote in an email.
Party committees and political nonprofits
The 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 paid 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 then paid for a gala fundraiser at Trump’s D.C. hotel that cost more than $167,000. Trump himself 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, about eleven percent of the money that the RNC spent for venue rentals and catering was spent at a Trump property. 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 that 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.
Great America Committee
The committee started by Vice President Mike 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.
The 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.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee
This committee, which seeks to elect or re-elect 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 D.C., including $11,796 on a single day in April. It also spent $5,000 on “catering/facility rental” at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida in March. A spokeswoman for the NRSC did not respond to requests for comment, asking about what sort of events the NRSC had held at Trump’s club.
Protect the House
This committee formed jointly NRCC and several House candidates held an event at Mar-a-Lago in February, records show.
The 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 properties.
In 2018, the group has already set up another such contest, where the prize offered to donors is a stay at Trump’s winery outside Charlottesville, Va.
The Bold Conservatives PAC
This PAC, which began as a committee urging then-Milwaukee County (Wisc.) Sheriff David Clarke to run for Senate, spent money in early 2017 to house and feed its volunteers at the Trump Hotel in downtown D.C. Clarke (R) never showed interest in a senate run, and resigned his position as county sheriff in the fall of 2017. The PAC has been renamed.
Washington State Republican Party
The state party committee spent the money at the Trump International hotel in Washington D.C. last summer.
These figures are drawn from Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service filings from Nov. 9, 2016, through April 30, 2018 for committees filing quarterly reports and Nov. 9, 2016 through May 31, 2018 for committees filing monthly reports. Expenditures by Trump’s presidential campaign cover the 2017 calendar year.
Rob Kuznia in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., contributed to this report.