One thing can be said for The Donald is that he doesn’t do anything halfway, particularly when it comes to promoting himself and his brand. As of July 21st, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. has spent over $97 million on a campaign that the Washington Post called the “most cost-effective presidential campaign in modern history,” but that was back in December; at the time, Trump bragged that his campaign was $35 million under budget – but that he planned to “spend big” in Iowa. He’s continued to “spend big.” To date, $7.7 million of that money has been spent on campaign contributions to companies owned by (wait for it) – Donald Trump.
This information comes from his most recent filing with the Federal Elections Commission. Events have been held at Trump Tower, where the campaign rents office space (at rent that has recently gone up by 400% – now that it’s being paid for by outside contributors) and other places he owns, including Trump hotels and golf courses, and his Florida club, the Mar-A-Lago (where he dropped $400,000 in May alone). Meals have been bought and paid for at Trump restaurants, where Trump wine was served, chilled with Trump ice.
Most of his campaign money – nearly 73% – has gone toward fueling his fleet of private jets.
Does this mean Trump has been making a killing on his own campaign? Not necessarily. During the first year of his campaign, he spent almost $13 million of his own personal wealth financing his Presidential bid. However, $12.6 million of that was in the form of loans, according to Politifact – and those loans have since been “forgiven.”
This all may seem fishy, but in the context of campaign finance laws, such activities seem to fall into a gray area. For example, there is no law preventing candidates from renting themselves office space. On the other hand, candidates are not allowed to collect royalties on memoirs that may be purchased by their campaign organizations. Nonetheless, there appears to be nothing illegal about Trump hiring his own family and businesses for campaign activities.
The fact is, no candidate in U.S. history has ever done what Trump is doing. The Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center, Paul Ryan (not the current Speaker of the House) says “The extent of Mr. Trump’s use of his own companies for goods and services during the campaign is unprecedented,” adding, “It has the potential to transfer donations to himself and his children.”
In short, there aren’t really any laws regulating the use of a private business entity receiving payments from its owner who is running for office. And since there would have to be a formal request from Trump’s own campaign in order to start any sort of investigation, it’s doubtful that the FEC will be making any inquiries in the matter. According to Ryan, the FEC isn’t currently looking into anyone’s campaign activities.
In the meantime, it seems likely that Donald Trump is fulfilling his own prediction, made back in 2000, when he said, “It’s very possibly that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” And in the end, the one thing that Donald Trump holds dearer and nearer to his heart than anything else in the world is Donald Trump.