Trump 2020 has been fundraising since the president took office in January 2017; and since that time, his campaign has continuously spent big at Trump properties and businesses. According to FEC filings, the Trump campaign, the fundraising committee Trump Victory and the Republican National Committee have spent roughly $1.3 million at Trump hotels, golf courses, and other properties.
To be clear, none of this spending is illegal under federal campaign finance laws, according to campaign finance law expert and Stetson University Law Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy.
“The RNC is free to spend money for goods and services from the Trump Organization so long as they are paying fair market rates,” she explained. But, she continued, “Does this look like a vast conflict of interest? Yes, yes it does.”
Expenditures from the campaign include more than $75,000 spent on rent at the Trump Tower in the month of September, and more than $4,500 on legal and IT consulting in July. While not included in Yahoo Finance’s tally of money spent on Trump businesses, money was also spent on travel for Trump’s son, Donald Jr.
The Trump campaign itself spent just under $467,000 at Trump businesses from Jan. 1 of last year through to the end of 2019.
Trump’s fundraising committee Trump Victory also spent big at Trump-owned properties.
Spending by the committee included big-ticket purchases like more than $75,000 spent on venue rental and catering at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and over $42,000 spent at Trump’s Hotel in New York for a facility rental in June.
In that month alone, the fundraising committee shelled out $224,000 at the “Trump Hotel Collection” in New York. For the year, Trump Victory padded Trump’s bank account by spending close to $500,000 at his businesses.
A Trump campaign official told Yahoo Finance that “the campaign pays fair market value under negotiated rental agreements and other service agreements in compliance with the law. The campaign works closely with campaign counsel to ensure strict compliance in this regard.”
But Trump’s campaign and fundraising committee weren’t alone.
‘Fantastic service and secure spaces’
The RNC also spent big at Trump properties last year, paying more than $305,000 for venue rentals, travel expenses, and even printing needs.
The RNC shelled out a staggering $170,000 at Trump’s Doral resort in November, though it was not immediately clear for which event the resort was rented.
An RNC official told Yahoo Finance that “aside from the fact that donors enjoy visiting Trump properties, other factors like security, price, and convenience are all part of the committee’s decision-making process.”
Trump Victory is a joint fundraising committee with both the campaign and the RNC, headed by members of both organizations.
In November, RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said that the media is “obsessed” with Republican spending at Trump properties.
“As we have stated multiple times, we continue to hold events at them because they have fantastic service and secure spaces that fit our needs,” he explained.
But historically, that isn’t true.
According to Yahoo Finance analysis of FEC filings, the RNC had only spent money at Trump properties twice in history: once in 2011 and again in 2013. The total for those two expenditures was for less $40,000, and covered catering services at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia.
The uptick in spending is an increase of roughly 687%.
This spending might break from tradition of previous presidents with business holdings, even though according to Torres-Spelliscy, the law professor, it isn’t illegal.
Trump yielded control of the Trump organization — which includes hotels, golf resorts, and apartment buildings — when he became president.
But organizations like the nonpartisan non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) say the president is using his political apparatus to make a profit.
“He did not divest,” said CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz. “He sold some stock, but that’s not divesting from the Trump business. He set up a non-blind trust that’s revocable, and he can remove money from it with permission of the trustee — which is his son.”
(CREW has been involved in lawsuits against Trump alleging he violated the Emoluments clause of the Constitution which prohibits sitting public officials — including the president — from accepting benefits from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. CREW’s lawsuits do not allege that campaign and RNC expenditures violate this clause, and previous emoluments lawsuits from CREW were dismissed.)
Trump spending at Trump businesses is by no means the only alleged conflict of interest from the president.
A previous analysis from CREW found that Trump had well over 2,000 conflicts of interest since he’d taken office.
Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.