May 23, 2019
Last week, President Trump filed his annual public financial disclosure (PFD) report, which shows, among other things, how much revenue was generated by hotels and golf courses owned by the president in 2018. These properties, especially the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, have become popular fundraising and event sites for political groups, special interests, and others seeking to influence the president.
The revenue totals on Trump’s PFD show that patronage by political groups alone appears to account for a sizeable portion of the hotel’s revenue. According to a CREW analysis of campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and IRS, disclosed spending by political groups in 2018—almost all of which came from Republican party committees, campaigns and outside groups—is equal to at least 3.4% of the total revenue reported on the PFD that CREW identified as relating to the Trump International Hotel in DC.
Spending by President Trump’s own political operation, including his campaign, a joint fundraising committee benefiting both his campaign and the RNC, and an “approved” outside spending group, equaled 1.3% of the total revenue CREW identified as relating to the hotel. Adding political groups tied to Vice President Pence to this number brings the total to more than 2%.
Publicly disclosed political spending represents only one type of spending at the hotel that could be motivated by its owner’s status as president. Nonprofit groups, special interests, and foreign governments are all known to have held events at the hotel, but these patrons aren’t required to disclose the costs of these events. It is likely that money from these patrons constitutes another sizeable portion of the hotel’s revenues.
The DC hotel is far from the only Trump property to attract significant cash from political groups. Many of President Trump’s properties were popular fundraising venues during the 2018 midterm election. CREW tracked 33 political events that were held at a Trump property during 2018. One of the appeals of hosting an event at a Trump property is that they are often attended by high-level administration officials. Indeed, during 2018, President Trump attended 13 political events that were held at his properties. Vice President Pence attended nine. These events often resulted in five- and six-figure payments to Trump’s private business, which he still owns and profits from.
Before Trump was president, spending by political committees at Trump properties was almost nonexistent, but as some nonpolitical groups have moved events to other venues either in protest of Trump’s policies or to avoid personally enriching the president, Trump’s political allies—far from rejecting the idea of a president profiting off his businesses while in office—have moved in to fill the void. According to disclosure forms filed with the FEC and the IRS, political groups—nearly all of which are tied to Republican candidates and the Republican party—spent more than $1.4 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC in 2018.
It is inherently difficult to calculate how much each of Trump’s properties generated in revenue based on the information on the PFD. One difficulty is figuring out which of the hundreds of entities’ revenue relates to which property. In some cases, a single entity’s revenue includes revenue from related entities, while in other cases, related entities’ revenues are reported separately.
For example, revenue from one entity linked to Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago was not reported separately on the PFD. Instead, that revenue appears to be reported in a consolidated manner with that of a different entity linked to the same property. This does not, however, reflect a general policy of consolidating revenue for each property for purposes of reporting on the PFD. With regard to a different property, a restaurant located in Trump National Doral in Miami, for instance, restaurant revenue was reported separately from the rest of the resort’s revenue.
With respect to CREW’s analysis of the percentage of the Trump International Hotel DC’s revenue in relation to spending by political groups that almost exclusively benefit Republicans, CREW included revenue from two entities in its analysis: Trump Old Post Office LLC and Trump International Hotels Management LLC. The Trump Old Post Office LLC is the entity through which Trump profits from the DC hotel, and it reported $40.8 million in “hotel related revenue.” The Trump International Hotels Management entity appears to provide management services to the hotel and other hotels, reporting $1.5 million in revenue from “management fees.”
In order to render a conservative estimate of how much of the hotel’s revenue came from political groups, CREW’s analysis included the entire revenue total reported for Trump International Hotels Management LLC. Its relationship to the hotel is further confirmed by the fact that a political committee paid this entity for facility rental and catering services rendered by the DC hotel.
The very limited snapshot of President Trump’s finances that his annual disclosure provides shows one of his most successful businesses relies to an extent on spending by the supportive political groups. It’s just another reminder of how much Trump has mixed the office of the presidency with his private businesses.