When President Trump attended the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in January at his struggling Doral golf resort, his business pocketed more than half a million dollars from the RNC and 13 state Republican committees, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosures by CREW. With Doral newly open after months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the 2020 campaign in full swing, Trump’s supporters could soon be filling his bank account once again.
CREW’s research found that 23 different Republican groups spent a total of $537,326 at Trump Doral in January and February of 2020. The RNC alone accounted for up to $509,000 of this sum, including a $491,000 payment listed to have been spent on “venue rental and catering” for the meeting in January. Another $18,000 spent by the RNC at Doral in early January may have also been for the event. This total doesn’t include the attendance of Secret Service agents, which likely deposited thousands of the public’s dollars into Trump’s business.
The state Republican party committees of West Virginia, Texas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa, North Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Georgia and Wyoming all contributed to the massive tab. So did the Virgin Islands Republican party. Four of the state committees each made a payment of $911.91 for “lodging,” “RNC meeting hotel,” or “hotel room for meeting,” a total that covers about three nights at the rate charged for RNC members. While these payments are only a fraction of what the resort earned from the meeting, they indicate how much these groups were paying in addition to their members’ out-of-pocket fees.
Though RNC members got a special $289 rate per night for the event, the increased demand appears to have created a spike in rates for other visitors, which may have included the Secret Service. The lowest-priced rooms jumped in cost from $254 to $539 per night, more than doubling. Trump infamously—and almost certainly falsely—claimed that he would hold the G-7 conference at Doral at cost, so as not to make money off the presidency. But this major Trump-related conference shows how Trump can increase his profits during political events, taking advantage of those in attendance.
When Trump refused to follow the advice of ethics experts and divest from his businesses, he created endless opportunities to profit off the presidency and take advantage of his political supporters. Increasing room rates around big political events further demonstrates the problem. CREW exposed a similar spike in the costs at Trump’s DC hotel the night of a Senate Republican retreat in October 2019, and an even more dramatic increase during a fundraising event two months later.
The president capitalizing off his public office to line his own pockets should not be normalized. Not only are instances like these blatant acts of corruption, they set a dangerous precedent for other elected officials that may be inclined to follow in Trump’s footsteps. These Doral bills show that on top of the RNC, at least 13 state parties enabled Trump’s profiteering by directly paying his business during this event. But what, exactly, are these groups expecting in return?