breaking news

Two killed in traffic crash west of Boynton Beach

Mar-a-Lago events raise money for politicos, revenues for Trump

In March, the Republican National Committee paid $224,857 to Mar-a-Lago — President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach — to host fundraisers for his prospective 2020 re-election bid as well as the 2018 campaigns of other Republicans.

The fundraisers on the weekend of March 3 are believed to have raked in about $5 million — a big chunk of the record $13. 9 million the national Republican Party raised during that month.

While the oceanfront club has long been a venue for society fundraisers and destination weddings, political groups and candidates are increasingly booking events at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties. The result, as a review of federal state and local election records by The Palm Beach Post shows, is that Mar-a-Lago has emerged as a magnet for GOP political candidates while political fundraising appears to be a lucrative revenue stream for its owner, who happens to be the President of the United States.

About $1 million of the total $1.4 million that politicos have spent at the club since 2003 — when Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean hosted the first political event at the club — has flowed in after Trump announced his presidential bid in June 2015.

The RNC has quickly become Mar-a-Lago’s second-best customer, behind the Trump campaign itself. The party wrote the single biggest check to Mar-a-Lago during Trump’s campaign for the GOP nomination — for a total of $423,371 — on May 18, 2016. It was among the first checks cut by the RNC after it signed a fundraising agreement with the Trump campaign a day earlier.

PHOTOS: A look inside President Trump’s Palm Beach palace 

Exactly what that money paid for at Mar-a-Lago isn’t detailed in campaign finance records. However, Trump held his Super Tuesday victory party and press conference at the club two months earlier.

To the south, at Trump National Doral near Miami, the RNC has also ramped up spending. Before Trump’s nomination, the RNC had never hosted an event at the club. On July 26, 2016 — a week after Trump’s nomination — the RNC spent $14,986.92 on a fundraiser there.

The Trump Organization can expect another check from the RNC, which hosted its annual spring meeting at the Trump National Doral near Miami last week.

“People are having a great time. They love seeing Trump-branded things,” said New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey, admiring Doral’s Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom after an RNC Rules Committee meeting on Thursday. “I don’t think it’s any conflict at all.”

Before Trump became president, Mar-a-Lago was only occasionally used for political events, including the one by Dean as well as others in support of local Democrats. State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a Democrat, spent $6,390 on a fundraiser at the club in 2010.

In 2013, the Republican Party of Palm Beach County moved its annual Lincoln Day Dinner from the Kravis Center to Mar-a-Lago — paying about $66,000 for venue rental and food. The dinner bill jumped to $142,669.16 in 2016, when candidate Trump was the featured speaker.

This year, Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate, headlined the GOP’s annual dinner, with Donald Trump Jr. popping in. How much money the county GOP spent at Mar-a-Lago that evening is not available because the party has not yet filed finance reports for the dinner.

Trump in Palm Beach: Complete coverage

By far the biggest spender at Mar-a-Lago and other local Trump businesses is the president himself. The president’s campaign paid $584,293 to Mar-a-Lago, Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter during his run for president, according to data obtained by The Post from campaign finance records, financial disclosure forms, a local lawsuit and other news reports.

With earnings at Trump venues increasing as the 2018 midterm vote and the 2020 elections approach, sticky legal and ethical questions remain unanswered. Critics argue that the events have increased the value of the Trump brand and created a pay-to-play culture — both claims difficult to prove, especially if challenged in court.

“There is a ready base of political committees that can hold events at his properties and show their fealty to Trump,” said Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit that for 35 years has tracked money in politics. “I think it’s worrisome that people can buy influence in this way.”

But whether any of these events break any laws or rules isn’t known. Observers say there has never been a president whose businesses could be so widely exploited by those seeking favors or whose businesses could profit so much from holding the highest office in the land.

“It’s such a stark difference than what we have experienced in the past that it may reveal a need to create rules or law governing behavior,” Krumholz said. “In a way, we can’t really complain if there are no rules.”

The party’s current preference for Trump properties could become problematic if another Republican decides to challenge Trump in 2020. In that event, would the party still hold events at Trump properties?

“I think the conflict of interest and possibility of personal enrichment, coming at the expense of party independence and propriety, is of great concern,” Krumholz said. “It all behooves close examination.”

To some Trump supporters, the increased bookings at his properties are not troubling. The Trump Organization’s hotels and golf courses are designed to host such events. As for conflicts of interest, others point out, after the election the president relinquished management and leadership of his companies to a trust run by his sons and a longtime company executive. However, the president still has a financial stake in them because he did not sell off his stake in the businesses.

Peter Feaman, a Boynton Beach attorney who is the Republican National Committeeman for Florida, said the RNC’s use of a Trump facility provides no significant benefit to Trump.

“It’s a drop in the bucket when you look at the entire range of his asset portfolio. It really ends up being a very minuscule part of his overall financial operation. So I don’t see it as a big issue,” said Feaman on Thursday while attending the RNC’s annual spring meeting at Trump National Doral.

Longtime GOP activist Curly Haugland of North Dakota agreed.

“I think it’s pretty well settled that the Trump family’s entitled to own properties and do business with whoever it chooses,” Haugland said.


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Nation & World

Man charged with threatening 11-year-old who beat him at ‘Fortnite,’ police say
Man charged with threatening 11-year-old who beat him at ‘Fortnite,’ police say

A Long Island man was arrested last week after he threatened an 11-year-old boy who beat him on the online video game “Fortnite.” Michael Aliperti, 45, of Huntington, is charged with second-degree aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child, Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said during a news conference....
Job status in question, Rosenstein to meet with Trump on Thursday
Job status in question, Rosenstein to meet with Trump on Thursday

After initial reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was about to be fired or forced to resign, the White House on Monday said that President Donald Trump would meet with Rosenstein on Thursday, with Rosenstein’s job future seemingly still in question. “At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein...
Suspected truck thief run over by vehicle during dispute with owner, police say
Suspected truck thief run over by vehicle during dispute with owner, police say

A man suspected of stealing a truck was arrested Sunday after he was run over by the vehicle during a dispute with its owner.  >> Read more trending news  A man approached an officer who was already at a Walmart at 1 p.m. and explained that he had found his stolen truck in the parking lot, KETV reported.  As the officer and...
SiriusXM buys streaming music service Pandora in $3.5B deal
SiriusXM buys streaming music service Pandora in $3.5B deal

SiriusXM is buying streaming music service Pandora in a $3.5 billion deal that would create the world’s largest audio entertainment company, the companies said Monday.  >> Read more trending news  The all stock transaction is pending approval of stockholders, but is expected to close in the start of 2019.  “Pandora's...
Dallas police fire officer accused of shooting neighbor inside his home
Dallas police fire officer accused of shooting neighbor inside his home

Dallas police announced Monday that Amber Guyger, the officer accused of shooting and killing her neighbor in his apartment earlier this month, has been fired. Guyger was off-duty when she shot and killed Botham Shem Jean, 26, on Sept. 6, according to authorities. She told investigators she had mistaken Jean's apartment for her own. In an affidavit...
More Stories