President Trump, who is fond of dining at his Trump International Hotel near the White House, will have some company Wednesday — a roomful of people who paid as much as $35,000 or $100,000 each to be there.
The money will go to two joint fundraising operations — Trump Victory, which will take in large donations and Trump Make America Great Again Committee for smaller-dollar donors.
When Trump Victory started sending out invitations four weeks ago, it announced the price points, but kept the venue secret until a prospect had RSVP’d.
“There’s nothing flat-out illegal about it, but it’s pay-to-play,” said Richard Painter, former White House ethics counsel in the George W. Bush administration and a critic of Trump’s ethical standards. “The appearances are terrible.”
Trump has merged two problems — first, Painter points to the usual Washington practice of powerful officeholders selling access to big donors; and second, the new opportunity for interest groups to steer cash to his businesses.
The fundraiser is emblematic of the way Trump has seemed to close a circle of politics, money and influence unlike any past president. During the campaign, some of Trump’s companies did business with his campaign. It paid $8.7 million, for example, to TAG Air (the Trump company that owns most of his airplanes) and $2 million to Trump Tower, the building where he housed the campaign headquarters. His private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, received $435,000. Even Trump Ice, his bottled water brand, got $3,000.
In total, $1 out of every $10 that went into his presidential campaign went back to Trump in some way, and $1 out of every $5 Trump donated found its way back Trump brands and properties.
SOURCE: PETER OVERBY