Who knows what the Trump family thinks about the D.C. government. Better understood, perhaps, is the regard that the Republican presidential nominee and his family have for the District’s Democratic mayor, Muriel E. Bowser. That is, if regard is measured in terms of check-writing.
On April 10, 2014, 10 days after then-Ward 4 Council member Bowser defeated incumbent mayor Vincent C. Gray in a Democratic primary, Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, contributed the maximum $2,000 to the Muriel Bowser for Mayor Committee.
On Oct. 1, with a month left in the general election contest between Bowser and independent mayoral contender David Catania, one of Donald Trump’s sons, Eric Trump, donated $2,000 to Bowser’s election committee.
With the mayoral election won, attention turned to Bowser’s transition and inauguration. Those activities attracted Donald Trump himself, who, on Dec. 1, contributed $5,000 to Bowser’s D.C. Proud Inaugural Committee.
According to records of the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, no other candidate in D.C. history has received Trump money — not to say others wouldn’t if they could. Don’t know.
What can be said, however, is that the real estate magnate has been known to rain campaign contributions upon Democrats, especially in Democratic strongholds where the Trump organization does business. In recent years, it should be noted, Trump’s contributions have tacked toward the right, as have some of his views on public issues.
So why give to Bowser? I asked William Lightfoot, Bowser’s 2014 campaign chairman and a top adviser to the mayor, who said, “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the Trump Organization why they gave the money.” An email inquiry to the Trump Organization has not been answered.
Could there be a one-word answer: “access”?
To be sure, the $9,000 in checks to Bowser’s organizations are chump change to the Trumps. The same might be said of Bowser’s 2014 campaign treasury, which took in more than $1 million.
But the Trump donations still might draw attention in the District, where the 263-room luxury Trump International Hotel under construction in the historic Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue is slated to open in September.
Trump’s got a lot riding on that $200 million project, which is being financed with, according to the Washington Business Journal, $42 million of Trump’s own money and a $170 million Deutsche Bank loan.
Hardly a risk-free undertaking.
And the venture could be even more of a headache for a Trump Organization that finds itself at war in D.C. Superior Court with the D.C. government over the value of the Old Post Office. A loss in the assessment dispute with the city’s Office of Tax and Revenue could prove costly.
Nine thousand dollars probably won’t buy much D.C. time. But those bucks may be enough to rent a few minutes on the phone with a D.C. problem-solver.
What have they talked about? Bowser said in a phone interview that she recalled discussing the dispute involving restaurants that pulled out of the hotel deal over disparaging remarks that Donald Trump made about immigrants. She said she spoke out of concern for local business. Asked about the Trump contributions to her campaign and inaugural event, Bowser said she was “not sure” she and Ivanka Trump “talked about it very much.”
Ironically, the statehood proposal championed by Bowser, which fixes set boundaries of “New Columbia” and the federal seat of government, would locate the Trump International Hotel in the federal district — a potential financial windfall for Donald Trump and a revenue loss for the new state. Bowser acknowledged that the Pennsylvania Avenue boundary would locate the John A. Wilson building , which houses the city government, within New Columbia, but not the Trump Hotel.
Told by me that I had learned that the boundary had been drawn in error and would be corrected to include the Trump Hotel in New Columbia, Bowser demanded, “Who told you that?” After identifying the source, who did not speak in confidence, the interview ended. Within minutes, Bowser called back to say she had been unaware of the effort to address the problem and that she would speak with D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) about amending the statehood proposal to include Trump Hotel within the new state.
Earlier in the year, Bowser took issue with Donald Trump’s statements about illegal immigrants, calling them “idiotic,” and expressed hope that he would recant them.
Hasn’t happened, and probably won’t.
Since then, Trump has gone on to disparage many others and to generally threaten our democratic values.
What the Trump Organization sees in Bowser is for it to know. What Bowser sees in Trump is for D.C. citizens to know. To rid the city of any false idea that Bowser is not offended by Trump or is influenced by the Trump contributions, she should return all of the Trump family money or donate it to worthy causes.
And as mayor, she must deal with real estate mogul Trump and his business partners at arm’s length and with someone else in the room with a tape recorder.
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