Though Donald Trump is no longer the president, he’s still the de facto leader of the Republican Party. While in office, Trump made it clear that the best way to get into his good graces is by spending money at his properties. Now attempting to transition to the role of political kingmaker, Republican candidates from across the country have flocked to Trump properties to seek a coveted endorsement from the former president. Just like as president, Donald Trump has found a way to tie political futures to his personal fortune, channeling money into the Trump Organization.
In the months since Trump has left office, at least 46 candidates for federal and state office have made 63 visits to Trump properties, according to CREW’s analysis of campaign finance reports, news articles, and social media posts. Most of these visits have been made at Trump’s home base, Mar-a-Lago (35), although in recent weeks they have shifted to Trump National Golf Club Bedminster (17) in New Jersey, where Trump is spending the summer.
As president, Trump continually used his office to try to make money for his eponymous business empire, from holding official press conferences to hosting foreign dignitaries at his hotels and clubs. That sent the message to those trying to influence him that patronizing his properties could buy them access to power along with Trump’s support. That rule still applies, and the former president is still cashing in on his political power, diminished as it is.
Candidates from across the country are coming to Trump properties, making casual visits to clubs and having more official meetings at Trump Tower. Former New Jersey Gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo has spent the most time at Trump properties, with five visits. Conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer, waging a quixotic campaign for Congress in Florida’s 21st district, has visited Trump properties three times. Some candidates, such as Mike Carey, running for Congress in Ohio’s 15th district, and Kelly Tshibaka, who is seeking to unseat Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, secured endorsements from Trump soon after they met with him at Trump Tower.
Many of these candidates have held lavish events at Trump properties, inevitably enriching the former president while showing that they’re in his good graces. Arkansas Gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders spent $10,761 on an event according to her campaign contribution and expenditure report. Representative Mo Brooks spent over $25,000 on an April event at Mar-a-Lago to fundraise for his Senate campaign, which coincided with him earning an endorsement from Trump earlier that month. Rizzo has held two campaign events at Trump properties, spending a whopping $40,000 at the former President’s golf courses.
Candidates who have met with or taken photos with Trump at his properties are bound to boast about it on social media. During his presidency Trump’s allies in Congress and the executive branch regularly used their platforms to advertise his properties, and others have followed suit. Congressional candidates Billy Prempeh, Darius Mayfield and Teddy Daniels all posted their prized photos with Trump, making sure to mention the location, after attending an event put on by Republican political committee Red Renaissance at Trump’s Bedminster club.
While president, Trump sought to make his properties centers of power and influence. Since leaving office, he’s tried to maintain their connection to power, from hosting a meeting at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club with several sitting representatives to strategize about the future of the Republican Party, to even using the presidential seal at his properties. Trump is just as influential in Republican politics as he was when he was president, and with this power he’s going to keep doing what he did throughout his entire presidency: abuse his position for his personal financial gain.