The Republican National Committee is funneling yet more money into President Donald Trump’s pocket, with a fundraiser at his Doral, Florida, golf course that will likely incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses.
Trump is appearing there for a Wednesday lunch with a six-figure ticket price that is expected to bring in several million dollars for the party and his campaign. The party has already paid his golf resort $84,822 in advance, and will likely pay at least that much afterward.
Trump is to arrive there Tuesday night following a fundraiser and rally in Orlando. “My guess is he wants to play golf in the morning,” said one informal White House adviser on condition of anonymity.
“At this point, it’s clear that President Trump’s top priority is making himself money,” said Jordan Libowitz of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that has sued Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
“Money being given for the purpose of electing officials is going right into his bank account, and he makes a promotional appearance at the business he still owns,” Libowitz added.
The RNC would not disclose how much more it anticipates spending for the event. Nor would it detail its process for choosing Trump National Doral — an aging and in places musty property directly under the flight pattern of nearby Miami International Airport — when Miami and Miami Beach have dozens of suitable hotels, particularly in the slow summer season.
“At this point, it’s clear that President Trump’s top priority is making himself money.”
The RNC, nevertheless, defended its choice of a venue that personally enriches the president.
“Ninety percent of the donors would be delighted using Trump properties,” said one senior RNC member on condition of anonymity.
Party officials agreed. “Aside from the fact that donors enjoy visiting Trump properties, other factors like security, convenience and price are all part of the committee’s decision-making process,” said an RNC official on condition of anonymity. “Trump properties can also be cheaper to rent than other venues.”
Last year, the party held its spring meeting at Doral, spending a total of $605,765. Less than half of that, though, was paid to Trump’s golf resort before the May meeting. And that sum only represents the party’s expense for renting meeting rooms, staff travel and lodging, and some meals. RNC members had to pay for their own hotel rooms and some of their food – likely generating at least another $150,000 for Trump’s business.
During Trump’s first two years in office, the RNC spent a total of $1.3 million at Trump properties. The Trump campaign spent another $1.6 million, and 117 other Republican candidates and committees spent at least another $1.4 million, according to a HuffPost analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
Although Trump promised during his campaign that he would separate himself from his family business, he reneged on that pledge immediately afterward. He continues to profit from the various buildings, golf courses and hotels that the Trump Organization owns while maintaining control through his adult sons.
How much he personally profits from such visits is unclear because he also reneged on his promise to release his tax returns.
If Trump winds up playing golf at Doral, it will become the eighth of his own properties he will have played at since taking office — despite promising that he would be too busy to take vacations of any kind as president.
“I love golf, but if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again. I don’t think I’d ever see Doral again,” he told a rally audience in February 2016. “I don’t ever think I’d see anything. I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.”
Through last weekend, Trump has already spent 181 days at his golf courses, costing taxpayers at least $105.8 million in extra travel and security costs. Even on fundraising and campaign trips, such as the coming one, the campaign and party pay only a fraction of the actual cost of flying Air Force One and of transporting the vehicles in Trump’s motorcades, with taxpayers picking up the majority of it.
“Donald Trump and the country might be happier if he went back to being a full-time golf course owner,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a liberal group that tracks Trump’s self-dealing and conflicts of interest. “Trump has turned the White House into a club house at which his top priority is self-enrichment. He’s made the White House press corps into the shadow staff for Golf Digest. America deserves better.”