But after he left office, analysis from ProPublica shows, that spigot has squeaked closed. In the first six months of 2017, the properties pulled in more than $600,000. In the first six months of 2019, about $1.4 million. So far this year, though? Only about $350,000.
What’s more, much less of that spending is happening in Washington, where it may have been more likely to attract Trump’s attention. In 2017, about 13 percent of spending in the first six months of the year was at Trump’s D.C. hotel or its restaurant. In 2019, about a quarter was. This year, only about 4 percent was spent in D.C. Instead, 85 percent of 2021 spending has been at Trump’s properties in Florida, mostly Mar-a-Lago, where the former president was encamped for most of the year. In 2019, only about a third of spending was in Florida.
The reason for the drop, though, isn’t really that Trump isn’t carrying the same appeal for his allies as he used to. It’s that his own campaign committees aren’t spending money anymore, because he’s not holding fundraisers at his properties or leasing office space to the campaigns. In the first six months of 2017 and 2019, most of the spending at Trump properties was spending by Trump campaign committees. This year, none of it has been.
If we exclude Trump’s campaign spending from the annual totals, we see that spending at Trump Organization properties by political groups is about where it was two years ago. That’s in large part thanks to a big event hosted by the Republican National Committee at Mar-a-Lago in May, but the point nonetheless stands.
That just goes to show how much Trump campaign money was flowing to his privately held organizations. Two years ago, his campaign committees had already spent $1 million at Trump Organization properties — 11 percent of all spending at Trump properties by political committees since 2017. That’s money contributed by individual donors, flowing through his campaign and into his pocket.
It also reinforces another reason that Trump might be interested in running for president again in 2024. Why not get thousands of people to give money that bolsters his personal bottom line? Why not keep raising money for several years into his existing loosely regulated political committee and then into an actual campaign account? If there’s one thing Trump has always had an eye for, it’s a willing customer. It’s hard to imagine that he’s never done the mental calculation of how much money could be earned if each of his 74 million votes in 2020 contributed $10 to returning him to the White House.