As he has done on nearly 40 occasions since being inaugurated, President Trump will depart the White House on Friday afternoon for one of the properties owned by his private company.
It will be his 269th day in office on which he’s visited a Trump Organization property, by our count. Which means that he’s visiting a property his private company owns about once every 3.4 days as president.
This time, the destination is his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., the property he’s spent the second-most time at (after Mar-a-Lago) and which is perhaps closest to his heart. (It has been reported that the club is where he wants to be buried.) He’ll likely remain there for the weekend, playing golf outside of the view of reporters and tweeting to his heart’s content.
Upon arriving in New Jersey, though, he still has one item on the schedule: A “roundtable with supporters” that will be held at the golf club.
This isn’t just a sit-down with some random Trump fans. It is, instead, a perk for high-dollar donors to the president’s reelection campaign. According to an invitation obtained by Insider NJ, those participating in this informal conversation have spent $100,000 to do so. That level of donation also earns donors a photo with the president.
That’s money that goes to the campaign — but some of it also ends up going back to Bedminster in the form of event space and catering. Meaning that some of it also ends up back in President Trump’s pocket.
According to data compiled from Federal Election Commission reports by ProPublica, three campaign committees linked to Trump’s reelection — the Republican National Committee, Trump’s campaign committee and Trump Victory, a joint committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican Party — have spent over $700,000 at Trump properties this cycle. Over the past year, the total is nearly $1.4 million.
The most spent in one day was at Mar-a-Lago in late March, when the RNC and Trump Victory spent over $400,000.
Trump holds these roundtable events fairly regularly. Since one year ago, he’s held 39 of them, in fact, including 10 at Trump Organization properties. Those dates are indicated below.
You can see that they are heavily bunched up before the midterm election last year and were reintroduced in March.
Let’s focus on one of those events to explore how Trump benefits. On Sept. 12, Trump held a roundtable at his hotel in Washington. (Before being a Trump hotel, it was the old post office building.) That same day, Trump Victory reported spending a bit over $16,000 on facility rental and catering, and the Republican Party reported spending a bit over $1,000 at the restaurant inside the hotel.
That’s money paid to the committees by donors.
How much of what was paid to the hotel was profit is hard to tell. There has been some reporting to suggest that Trump’s properties don’t offer much of a discount when Trump’s political groups are footing the bill; one planner for the president’s inaugural committee worried that they were being gouged by the D.C. hotel on event space.
But some fraction of those costs are certainly profit. So where does that profit go? Well, it’s complicated.
In May, we looked at the complex web of business interests Trump reported on his personal financial disclosure. He has some relationship to literally hundreds of business entities, most of them nothing more than paper companies created for tax purposes.
Overall, that web looks like this.
There are three important parts of that diagram for our purposes: The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and the two “holdings” companies, DJT Holdings and DJT Holdings Managing Member.
According to Trump’s filings, ownership of the D.C. hotel flows through those three entities. The hotel, Trump Old Post Office, is owned mostly by DJT Holdings. One percent of the company, though, is owned by Trump Old Post Office Member, which is owned by DJT Holdings Managing Member. Both DJT Holdings and DJT Holdings Managing Member are owned by the trust.
Why do it this way? A tax attorney with whom we spoke explained that by making the company a partnership (by introducing the member corporation), income flows up to ownership companies but the company itself doesn’t have to be identified by name on tax documents.
The important point here being that profits from the D.C. hotel move up the chain to the trust. That trust, you may remember, was created by the president after he won the 2016 election. It was his attempt to mollify concerns that he would still have ownership over Trump Organization assets while in the White House — and therefore still profit from his private company.
As we’ve reported, the existence of the trust doesn’t really change much. Trump can still draw money from the trust when he wants.
It’s worth noting that the structure of ownership of the hotel is actually a bit more complex than that. Paperwork filed with the government (from whom the Trump Organization leases the property) indicates that, in addition to DJT Holdings and the member corporation, each of Trump’s three oldest children has an LLC which owns a bit over 7 percent of the property.
For example, Ivanka Trump’s ownership LLC is called Ivanka OPO. (OPO stands for “old post office.”) In 2018, she earned $3.9 million from her stake.
Trump himself doesn’t earn a ton of money from holding campaign events at his properties. He earns a lot more, it’s safe to say, from the rent the campaign pays at Trump Tower. But it’s still the case that donors to his campaign and to the Republican Party are, quite indirectly, often putting money into Trump’s own bank account.