This Week in Conflicts: Taxpayer Spending at Trump Properties, the Kushners and Trumps Back Out of a Deal and How Trump is Leaving His Mark on a Presidential Keepsake


(Image Credit: Executive Office of the President of the United States)

This week, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, campaign finance reports and other documents reveal political groups and taxpayers have spent at least $16 million at Trump-branded properties since President Donald Trump said he was running for president and the Kushner Companies and the Trump Organization will no longer be partners on an oceanfront development at the Jersey Shore.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Image Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Paying the President

Since President Trump said he was running for president in late 2015, his campaign, Republican organizations and government agencies have spent at least $16.1 million at Trump-branded hotels, golf courses and restaurants, according to a new data project by ProPublica.  

The news organization used campaign finance reports, government spending reports and federal agency expenditure records obtained by Property of the People, a Washington D.C.-based transparency group, to total up the amount of money spent by the organizations.

“Because Trump’s business empire is overseen by a trust of which he is the sole beneficiary, he profits from these hotel stays, banquet hall rentals and meals,” the article reads.

More than 84 percent of what ProPublica tracked was spent by President Trump’s campaign. At least $2.1 million was spent at Trump-branded properties by Republican Senate and House political committees and campaigns, according to the data.

Search the database here to dig in deeper. 

Photo of President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping posing for a selfie in November 2017. (Image Credit: U.S. Embassy Canberra)

“Serious Concerns” but No Investigation

Remember the group of 60 Democratic lawmakers that asked the Office of Government Ethics to investigate a Chinese-government owned company’s involvement in a Trump-branded project in Indonesia? 

Well, the lawmakers have received a response.

“Under the Constitution, the primary authority to oversee the President’s ethics rests with Congress and ultimately, with the American people,” David Apol, acting director and general counsel at the ethics office wrote. Apol said while some of President Trump’s business dealings “raise serious concerns” his office lacks the authority to launch an investigation.

As the Washington Post reports, Apol told the Democratic lawmakers, “at the outset, I agree that the information cited in your letter raises serious concerns,” however he said his office has “no authority to opine on Emoluments Clause issues.”

The Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits public officials from receiving anything of value from foreign governments, including foreign government-owned businesses, without the approval of Congress. One emoluments case against President Trump was dismissed by a trial-level judge in New York, but is on appeal. Another emoluments case brought by state attorneys general in Washington, D.C., and Maryland is ongoing. They claim hotels and event space in their states have lost business to the Trump International Hotel in D.C.

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, speaks Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, during a helo ride aboard a CH-47 over Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2017. (Image Credit: Department of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Kushners and Trumps Cut Ties

The New York Times is reporting, Kushner Companies and the Trump Organization are no longer considering working together to build and manage an oceanfront hotel at the Jersey Shore.

The possible collaboration between the Trump Organization and Jared Kushner’s family company was receiving criticism from ethics watchdogs, including an outside ethics adviser for the Trump Organization.

“The Trump-Kushner partnership in Livingston was unusual from the start,” the news organization reports. “It was the first hotel the Trumps managed that did not carry their name. And its suburban location contrasted with the five-star urban high-rises synonymous with the Trump hotel brand, though the Trumps had hotel management experience that the Kushners lacked, and the family connection helped bring them together.”

The companies also killed an arrangement set-up to have the Trump Organization managing a hotel in Livingston, N.J., Kushner’s childhood hometown, according to the New York Times.

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” presents a comprehensive, free, searchable database detailing all of President Donald J.Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as president of the United States. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, learn more about conflicts of interest at every level of government and search our database. If you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking you can email us or contact us here to contribute to the project.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.