Trump Tower has long played a starring role in Donald Trump’s life—first as a brand-burnishing real estate project, then as the site of The Apprentice, more recently as a set for the 2016 presidential campaign. It was here, from the downstairs atrium, that Trump announced he was making a bid for the White House. Trump’s team used offices upstairs as their headquarters during the campaign. The penthouse atop the tower hosted power brokers like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan once Trump became president-elect.
Trump moved from the penthouse to the White House in January 2017, but he did not leave Trump Tower behind entirely. He retained ownership of the property, through his 100% interest in an entity named Trump Tower Commercial LLC. His campaign kept its ties too, continuing to rent space from Trump Tower Commercial LLC. And thus Trump, who has not yet donated anything to his own reelection campaign, managed to collect $1.6 million of supporter money through the property, according to a review of federal filings. Trump moved additional campaign money to other businesses he owns, but 68% of the $2.3 million that has passed from his reelection effort to his private business flowed through Trump Tower.
That includes a $38,000 rent payment on August 21, a transaction detailed in the latest filings the Trump campaign submitted to the Federal Election Commission. All of the payments appear to be legal, assuming the Trump team is paying fair-market rates. It’s hard to know if it truly is, however, because the campaign will not say how much space it is renting. Representatives for Trump’s campaign and his business did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. The campaign has previously said it pays market rates in compliance with the law.
Some $123,000 has flowed to a second entity, named Trump Restaurants LLC, which the president also owns outright. That company appears to be connected to a space in the lower level of Trump Tower, where the campaign has been selling memorabilia from a small kiosk, wedged between Trump Grill and a souvenir shop. The campaign pays about $3,000 a month for that location, a figure that two real estate experts said seemed appropriate. A third, looking at the space from inside the building, concluded it was too much. “That’s robbery,” he said.
The Trump Organization received smaller sums via the president’s hotel empire. In August, the Trump campaign spent at least $3,500 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Federal filings show nearly $1,000 of additional money flowing into the “Trump Hotel Collection.” Trump’s hotels have now collected $231,000 from his reelection campaign, according to an analysis of documents.
In early September, rumors surfaced that the president was considering investing as much as $100 million of his own money into his reelection campaign. He spent $66 million on his 2016 run. But given that he hasn’t put in anything so far this cycle, and his portfolio only includes an estimated $160 million in cash, a $100 million donation seems far-fetched. A gift of, say, $5 million might be more compatible with the president’s balance sheet. It probably won’t move the needle much on his reelection chances, but at least it would cover the millions his businesses have received from the campaign.