Whether Donald Trump being president is good for American business may be questionable but it certainly has been a huge boon to the Trump family’s businesses, which by a conservative estimate have raked in $15.1 million since 2015 from direct spending by the Trump campaign and the U.S. government, according to McClatchy News.
Trump was always unusual as the first modern American president who has refused to sell his personal business interests or even put them in a true blind trust, preferring instead to perpetuate the fiction that they are now run by his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.
Americans, however, have watched as Trump has billed his campaign for everything from his plane to his headquarters in the Trump Tower in New York to bottles of Trump-branded water to visits to his family’s resorts on at least 138 occasions.
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The non-profit group Public Citizen and the group Property of the People, made up of legal experts and activists, has combed through Federal Election Commission data and federal agency records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which provides a still incomplete but fascinating portrait of how much it has cost Americans to have Trump run for office and as president since 2015.
“Trump has raised the art of the self-deal to unprecedented heights, enriching himself at the expense of taxpayers,” Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, told McClatchy News.
That would not include things like the cost to keep Trump in the White House, the usual security surrounding him and his family, the use of government aircrafts on official business and more. Nor would it include spending by domestic and foreign individuals and companies at the Trump hotels, golf courses, country clubs, on condos and at Trump-branded properties (which operate under private ownership with a Trump license) all over the world.
A number of lawsuits have been filed over the foreign expenditures in particular which charge that the spending violates the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the Trump properties have been slow and reticent to properly account for all that revenue.
However, the non-profits have tracked much of the direct spending at Trump Tower Commercial LLC, Trump International Hotel in Washington, Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump National Doral Miami, Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Trump Restaurants LLC, the Trump Corporation, Trump Payroll Corp., and Trump Plaza LLC, but even that is not a complete list.
That includes spending to support the president on the road by the Secret Service, the Defense Department, the General Services Administration, the National Security Council and various U.S. Embassies.
The biggest single spender was the Trump campaign, which paid out $13.4 million.
The Republican National Committee spent more than $717,000; Trump Victory and the fundraising committee created by the RNC and Trump’s campaign nearly $595,000; and the National Republican Senate Committee at least $49,000.
The political action committee America First Action, which helps elect candidates who support Trump’s agenda, spent $33,000 and the Great America Committee PAC, VP Mike Pence’s group, spent $24,000 at Trump properties.
There was also spending by campaigns and committees for House Republicans including Dana Rohrabacher of California and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, among others.
All of this has not gone over well with many critics, and certainly not with a lot of Democrats.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has announced plans to introduce a bill to bar taxpayer spending at properties owned by an office holder if it provides a profit to the office holder. However, with Republicans currently in control of the House and Senate, that legislation would have little chance of passage and it is even more unlikely Trump would sign it.
So, for now, taxpayers are stuck paying for a president who likes to go play golf every weekend, even though during the campaign he criticized then-President Obama for how often he left the White House to play golf.
By comparison, Trump has played golf and traveled a great deal more than Obama ever did, and when you add in the cost of his wife, children, and extended family, the cost is at a level probably never before recorded in American history.