Since January 20, 2021, members of Congress, state government officials and candidates for office have visited Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s other properties more than 500 times—putting hundreds of thousands of dollars in Trump’s pocket in an effort to curry favor with the Republican kingmaker. Trump’s hotels, clubs and golf courses have continued to serve as a headquarters of the Republican Party. Scoring a meeting with Trump or a fundraiser where he’s featured is helpful–if expensive–to officials and candidates alike. For political newcomers hoping to boost their profiles to Trump-approved MAGA-world stars, a visit to Mar-a-Lago–and payment to Trump–goes a long way.
Almost half of the visits to Trump’s properties have been made by non-incumbent candidates for federal and state office. Since January 2021 140 candidates have made 236 visits to Trump properties. These candidates have come from around the country; some have traveled from as far as Arizona, California and even Alaska to get face time with the former president. Their patronage often pays off. For candidates like Kari Lake of Arizona, presence at a Trump property helped increase her popularity, as Lake became the Republican nominee in her state’s gubernatorial race. Before they lost their primaries, New York gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Giuliani and Florida congressional candidate Anthony Sabatini each made six visits to Trump properties, as has Representative-elect Anna Paulina Luna. Eric Greitens, Laura Loomer, Kari Lake, Max Miller, Phil Rizzo, and Eric Schmitt all made five visits to various Trump properties over the course of their campaigns.
After the violent insurrection at the Capitol some Republicans in Congress signaled their intention to stand up to Trump. Since then, 67 senators and representatives have visited Trump properties 187 times. Among them are some of the biggest devotees to Trump and the Big Lie. Matt Gaetz has made the most visits (13), followed by Lindsey Graham (12), Madison Cawthorn (10), Lauren Boebert (9), and Marjorie Taylor Green (8). After the insurrection Rep. Kevin McCarthy condemned Trump and reportedly planned to call for Trump’s resignation. Shortly after McCarthy mended his relationship with Trump with a visit to Mar-a-Lago. McCarthy has since made five visits and has spent over a quarter million dollars at Trump properties.
State officials have followed suit. In April at least 17 members of the New Jersey Legislature met at Bedminster. In total, state government officials have made 106 visits to Trump properties. Florida Governor Ron Desantis, Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini, and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt are the three biggest patrons with seven, six, and five visits, respectively. Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and New Jersey Legislature members Beth Sawyer and Edward Durr have all made three visits each.
Two-hundred seventy seven of these visits have been made to attend expensive and lavish political fundraisers for political candidates and officials. In less than two years since Trump left the White House, political groups have held at least 87 events at Trump properties, funneling money into the former president’s pockets. That represents an uptick in the frequency of political events. There were 100 political events at Trump properties during Trump’s four years in office.
According to Forbes, as of June, candidates that Trump endorsed spent at least $1.4 million at his properties. Rep. Kevin McCarthy takes the cake as the biggest spender. Herschel Walker, running to unseat Senator Raphael Warnock in Georgia, has spent almost $200,000 at Mar-a-Lago. One fundraiser last year included five other candidates as guests. Gubernatorial candidates Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas and Kari Lake of Arizona have also held costly events. Lake’s fundraisers in particular have attracted multiple candidates and officials.
As president, Trump made it clear that visiting, promoting and, most importantly, spending money at his eponymous properties were effective ways to curry favor with his administration. Despite fomenting an insurrection and making persistent false claims that he won the 2020 election, things aren’t any different today. Trump is still the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and public officials as well as candidates are still patronizing and pumping money into his businesses to maintain or raise their status in the party.
While Trump’s properties serve as a place for them to fundraise, mingle and network, candidates and officials aren’t the only ones who benefit. For every photo posted or dollar spent at a Trump property, these visitors are reinforcing Trump’s vast importance on the right. Whether or not Trump’s run for president in 2024 is successful, it’s clear that his corruption is here to stay.