Republicans in Congress have adopted a missionary’s zeal for rooting out presidential corruption and profiteering. There is no detail too insignificant or inconclusive for them to trumpet on cable news as the latest evidence of foreign influence or illicit cash flows. This marks a striking turnaround from the four years of the Trump administration, when Republicans in Congress went out of their way to bankroll Donald Trump’s presidential profiteering and conflicts of interest.
Nowhere was that passion for filling Trump’s pockets more apparent than at his DC hotel, which brought in more than $3 million from Republican political organizations during Trump’s term in office, more than at any other Trump property. During that time, Trump’s businesses were being used by foreign governments and special interests to gain access and influence not just over Trump and his administration, but also the powerful lawmakers who could be found bumping elbows in the lobby.
However, since becoming a Waldorf Astoria in 2022, GOP spending at the largely unchanged luxury hotel in the Old Post Office building has all but disappeared. This directly conflicts with how Republicans explained their choice of venue at the time. When questions arose about their patronage of the then-president’s business, Republicans brushed off concerns of corruption saying that Trump’s DC hotel was simply a convenient location near Capitol Hill for lawmakers and political operatives to socialize, that they would be there regardless of who owned it.
As such, it would be reasonable to expect that Republicans would continue to frequent the hotel after Trump sold it and it rebranded as a Waldorf Astoria in June 2022, leaving many of the building’s luxury public spaces largely unchanged from its time as a Trump property. Yet political spending by GOP groups at the new hotel is virtually nonexistent, clocking in at a measly $37,878, according to the FEC’s most recent data covering the 17 months from June 2022 to the end of November 2023. For comparison, GOP groups spent $1,570,239, or 40 times that, in the interval between June 2018 and November 2019—the last comparable period when the building was still under Trump ownership. In fact, the amount spent since it opened is just a quarter of the $154,500 that then-Speaker Paul Ryan’s joint fundraising committee spent there in a single day in 2018, and a fraction of the $435,034 that Republican groups have spent at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club and residence, since the Waldorf Astoria opened.
Last year, CREW reported that from its opening in June 2022 to the midterm elections, Republican officials, candidates and fundraising committees spent less than $2,000 at the Waldorf Astoria. In the same five-month period in 2018, Republicans spent more than 400 times that amount with $867,000 paid to the Trump Hotel.
Throughout Trump’s presidency customers at the hotel asserted that its downtown location and close proximity to the White House and Capitol building made it a convenient choice for gathering. Future-Speaker Kevin McCarthy disregarded concerns about spending at the Trump Hotel, and said that Trump’s properties are “just like any other hotel.” During Trump’s presidency, McCarthy’s committees spent over a quarter-million dollars at Trump properties and earned Trump’s support for his bid for Speaker of the House. The day after T-Mobile announced its merger with Sprint, nine T-Mobile executives stayed at Trump Hotel. CEO John Legere tweeted that the hotel was “convenient” and that the stay would not “have any influence on regulatory decisions.” The Trump administration later approved the merger. The CEO of an energy trade group and Trump’s own campaign director also asserted that the Trump Hotel was a convenient choice for their events.
Like the Trump Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria holds a five-star status and is additionally home to a restaurant by a world-famous chef. Prior to his run for president, Trump’s businesses—drowning in debt—never took in more than $100,000 from political groups in any single year. With the help of foreign governments and special interests, Republicans helped put Trump back in the black by pouring millions in donor money into his hotel and other properties, saying it was out of convenience. In reality, it seems they just like putting donor money in Trump’s pocket.