Trump campaign officials say the activity is perfectly legal. Campaign-finance watchdogs say it reeks of self-dealing, particularly amid a global pandemic that has killed more than 140,000 in this country and added millions of Americans to the unemployment rolls.
Fred Wertheimer, who runs the Democracy 21 watchdog group, said the money that continues to flow to Trump properties underscores how much his presidency has dismantled political and ethical norms in the nation’s capital.
“There has never been anything like this at the presidential level because no President has insisted on owning a commercial enterprise at the same time they have existed as President,” Wertheimer said. “Everyone in America is financially struggling, and he has this fail-safe method to minimize any struggling by his commercial properties by channeling other people’s money to it.”
In an email, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said: “The campaign pays fair market value and abides by all FEC laws and regulations.”
While Trump turned the day-to-day operations of his far-flung real-estate and branding empire over to his adult sons, he has maintained ownership of his namesake company and has not shied away from promoting its assets. Over the weekend, he spent parts of both days golfing at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.
Sunday’s round marked the 371st day at one of his properties and 279th day at one of his golf clubs since the beginning of his presidency, according to CNN’s tally.
The largest recent expense to a Trump company: The roughly $400,000 that Trump Victory paid to the Trump Hotel Collection in late March and early April, recent FEC filings show. A party official said the spending was tied to a March donor retreat at the President’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
During his tenure, Trump has used the club as a setting for campaign events, along with official government business such as summits with world leaders, like Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Trump campaign has been the biggest spender at Trump-owned businesses, driven by its use of TAG Air, which operated Trump’s personal plane during the 2016 campaign. That accounted for $8.7 million, a CNN tally shows. That’s more than half what the campaign spent at all Trump properties over two presidential election cycles.
Other Trump properties receiving donors’ money from the Trump campaign and other political entities include: Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper where the Trump campaign has maintained offices and his Doral golf club in South Florida.
CNN’s Alison Main contributed to this report.