A new report from Forbes alleges that President Donald Trump has "shifted" about $1.1 million worth of re-election campaign donations from supporters across the United States into his businesses, while not donating a cent of his own money.
In a report published Thursday morning, Forbes' Dan Alexander detailed how recent federal filings show that Trump has yet to inject his own funds into his 2020 reelection campaign, while his businesses have purportedly charged the campaign for a number of purposes. According to Alexander, this is a sharp contrast to how Trump maintained a "frugal" operation when he launched his 2016 presidential bid -- and donated $50 million of his money toward his campaign.
As further noted by Alexander, Donald Trump began "loosening the purse strings" in July 2016, as third parties began to shoulder most of his campaign expenses, allowing him to send more campaign money to his businesses to mitigate his personal losses. With Trump hoping to be reelected to a second term in 2020, Alexander wrote that the president "seems to be getting a small payback on his investment."
Citing federal documents, Alexander wrote that Trump Tower Commercial LLC charged the president's re-election campaign $665,000 in rent, with the Republican National Committee also agreeing to pay additional rent charges of $225,000. The Forbes reporter stressed the possibility that the campaign has leased "plenty" of space inside Trump Tower, pointing out how each person listed as receiving "payroll" payments in 2020 campaign filings is paying an average of $6,300 in rent per month, or more than double the $2,700 paid by the people listed in the 2016 filings.
Given how the president's Trump Plaza LLC has allegedly taken $42,000 in campaign funds since November 2017 despite the lack of indication of any ongoing campaign activity, Alexander documented how Forbes monitored the business' retail space in November for close to 14 uninterrupted hours.
"By our count, seven people went in and out of the twin, four-story brownstones over the course of the day. One refused to talk, and six said they had not seen any sign of the campaign in the buildings. Nor had a man behind the front desk at Trump Plaza," Alexander recalled.
In addition to the rent payments, Forbes' Alexander mentioned other potentially "suspicious" Trump campaign payments. These included $90,000 in unspecified legal consulting expenses the campaign reportedly paid to the president's Trump Corporation, one month after Robert Mueller was tasked to lead the special counsel investigation into Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 elections.Furthermore, Trump's reelection campaign allegedly spent another $120,000 at the president's Washington, D.C. hotel, with the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas receiving a much smaller ($15,000) amount of campaign money.
Commenting on the above accusations, former Federal Election Commission (FEC) commissioner Ann Ravel described them to Forbes as "extremely unusual."
"There is always a concern when you're looking at expenditures as to whether those expenditures are being used for personal use, for personal purposes, because that's illegal," said Ravel.
"And there is, in my opinion, a fine line here with so much money being utilized for economic benefit for the candidate himself."While neither Donald Trump nor representatives for his businesses offered any comment on Forbes' report, the president had recently encouraged donations toward his 2020 re-election campaign due to the "massive" financial hit it took during this year's midterm elections. As quoted by the Hill, Trump justified his fundraising pitch by saying his campaign spent a lot of money trying to "fight off the Democrats" in the midterms and prevent them from "stealing" election victories via recounts.