By Linnaea Honl-Stuenkel and Lauren White
December 18, 2019

In November, we noticed a mysterious spike in the price of available rooms at Trump’s DC hotel for a Saturday night in December. The minimum cost was 13 times the average, but we couldn’t identify a reason for the spike, until photos surfaced of the Trump Victory Committee’s winter retreat at Trump’s Hotel on that exact night, which appears to have sold out much of the venue. While the least expensive room for a one-night stay at the hotel was around $500 on surrounding days, the cheapest room on December 14 was a whopping $6,719. With access to Trump, Pence, and other top officials, and a bonus invitation to the White House holiday party for donors, we no longer have to wonder why.

On November 7th, CREW flagged a massive spike in the cost of a room on December 14, suggesting that every less expensive room in the hotel was sold out, leaving only pricey suites. Presumably, rooms were taken up by donors to Trump Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee of the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign. The exorbitant cost is even more evidence that hosting fundraisers at the Trump International Hotel is one of the best ways to sell out the notoriously empty venue, sending donor money right into Trump’s pocket.

Lucky donors who managed to snag a room were also invited to the White House’s holiday open house, meaning that the cost of a room at Trump’s DC Hotel and donations towards his reelection included exclusive political access for the buyer. 

For those seeking access to the president and top members of his Cabinet, the Trump Victory Committee fundraiser did not disappoint. According to 1100 Pennsylvania, President Trump, Vice President Pence and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt were scheduled to attend Trump Victory’s retreat. Vice President Pence, who is one of the most frequent visitors to Trump properties, was a special guest for lunch. Pence’s lunch alone appears to have attracted 650 guests, according to a social media post that appears to have been from the event, well over the Trump Hotel’s 263 rooms. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, who is one of the top visitors to Trump properties among executive branch officials, also participated in a “Women for Trump Panel.” Finally, Trump and Secretary Bernhardt were slated to be special guests at the “Jingle and Mingle Cocktail Reception and Winter Retreat Gala.” 

There’s no question that political spending like the Trump Victory Committee fundraiser has helped make Trump’s DC Hotel one of the few bright spots in his financial portfolio, despite it’s high vacancy rate. CREW has tracked 72 political events held at Trump properties during the Trump presidency, 40 of which have been held at his DC hotel. Trump Victory has been a particularly loyal customer for the DC hotel, hosting fundraisers in June 2017, September 2018, May 2019, and June 2019. The Center for Responsive Politics found that all the political spending at the hotel is paying off, totalling nearly $20 million since the 2016 election cycle.

Rate spikes like this have happened before at Trump’s DC hotel, on the Fourth of July and during a Senate Republican retreat in November; but at thirteen times the average rate, The Trump Victory retreat drove an unprecedented jump.

Running for president typically involves raising vast sums of money for the campaign, but to be personally making millions off of a reelection effort is both unprecedented, and wildly corrupt. President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the presidency has cost him business. The repeated rate jumps at his hotel surrounding political events suggest that, at least for his DC property, this couldn’t be further from the truth.