Donald Trump is a twice-impeached, one-term president who continues to spout lies that led to an attempted violent overthrow of a free and fair election that he lost, but in the year since slinking away from the White House, his businesses have thrived on Republican officials treating his properties as their de facto headquarters. In the past year, candidates running for federal and state office and sitting members of Congress looking to keep their seats and appeal to a Trump-loving base have visited Trump’s properties in droves, and many have held expensive fundraising events at them. According to tracking by CREW, public officials and candidates for office have made at least 235 visits to Trump properties and have held 51 events.
These visits bring more than just profit to the for-profit kingmaker of the Republican Party, they bring an alternate reality. At Mar-a-Lago, Trump won in 2020. These visits and events, where Trump is often present and frequently gives remarks, perpetuate that false belief. Many of Trump’s top customers are the same people most involved in spreading it.
As president, Trump used his office to enrich himself through his properties at every turn. Instead of holding him accountable, other officials in the Republican Party followed his lead, visiting and spending money at the president’s properties, and promoting them in public statements. One year after Trump left office, nothing has changed. Trump has continued to brand his properties as centers of GOP power and influence, and fellow Republicans have swallowed the bait.
Since Trump left office, 46 members of Congress and 77 candidates for office flocked to Trump’s luxury resorts, hotels and golf clubs. These visits afford members more than company and caviar, they are chances to meet the former president to seek an endorsement, promote their agendas, and snap a photo to imply his support. Perhaps most importantly, they put money in the pocket of the former president.
Eleven senators and 35 representatives have made 119 visits to Trump properties since he left office. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina tops the list with 10 visits, followed by Senator Lindsey Graham (nine), and Reps. Matt Gaetz (eight), Lauren Boebert (seven) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (six). Most of their visits have taken place at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump resides for much of the year.
Party leadership takes part in this practice, too. Days after the insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump bore responsibility for the attack on Congress “by mob rioters.” A few weeks later, he flew to Mar-a-Lago to try to patch things up. Since then, he has continued to defend Trump’s false assertions about the election being stolen. He visited Trump at Bedminster to discuss House Republicans’ fundraising and Congressional special elections. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise similarly visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago shortly after the insurrection.
Patronizing Trump properties is just one part of showing political allegiance with the former president. Trump’s top customers are also among the most prominent supporters of the Big Lie that he won the 2020 presidential election.
Cawthorn spoke at Trump’s January 6th Stop the Steal rally, pushing baseless allegations about election fraud and calling Republicans who refused to push the Big Lie “cowards.” When violence unfolded at the Capitol, he refused to blame Trump supporters, and claimed it was “agitators” from the left. Boebert and Greene have both promoted unproven claims of widespread election fraud.
Congress members’ frequent visits to Trump’s hotels and golf courses have helped his properties maintain their status as centers of Republican power–and destinations for party spending. New candidates are following their lead, attending fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago and spending money at Trump golf courses as they appeal to the former president for access and endorsements.
Since Trump has left office, 77 candidates for federal and state office have made 123 visits to Trump properties according to tracking by CREW. Candidates have paid the greatest number of visits to Mar-a-Lago (67), followed by Trump’s Bedminster club (20). Congressional candidate Laura Loomer has made five visits to Trump properties, as has former New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo. Rizzo publicized his visit to Trump’s golf club on Instagram. They are followed by Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel as well as Anna Paulina Luna and Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, both running for Congress. Each has made four visits.
Candidates who are Trump customers have also pushed the Big Lie while paying Trump through his businesses to gain his favor. Mandel has attended events at Mar-a-Lago at least three times last year and spoke at an event at Doral where he made false voter fraud claims about Ohio’s election. During campaign stops and Republican forums in Ohio, he has claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and theorized that January 6th was an operation funded by the Deep State and organized by George Soros.
While some candidates have visited Trump businesses while seeking his endorsement, others have patronized them after getting one, as an apparent thank you, in the form of cash, to the former president. Twenty candidates and officeholders that Trump has endorsed have visited his properties to spend money.
North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, who is seeking a Senate seat in 2022, was endorsed by Trump in June. In November, he held a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago where tickets cost up to $10,800 per person. Trump attended the event as a special guest.
Anna Paulina Luna has made four visits to Trump properties since he endorsed her in her congressional bid in September. In December, Trump hosted an event for her campaign at Mar-a-Lago. He has hosted events there for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders as well. For $50,000, guests at the Paxton campaign’s event could have their photos taken and dine with the Texas attorney general and the former president.