Trump’s Inaugural Committee Money

Ken AshfordElection 2016, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

A lingering question of the Trump Administration is the money that was raised for his inauguration.  There was A LOT raised, and plenty left over.  From NPR in April 2017:

An inauguration is an expensive party to throw, and President Trump got plenty of help putting his on. Financial Election Commission disclosures released on Wednesday show that some uberwealthy donors helped Trump defray the cost: Million-dollar givers included investment firm founder Charles Schwab, mining entrepreneur Christopher Cline and Bank of America. Investor and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson spent $5 million.

Those megadonors contributed to Trump’s monster inauguration haul of nearly $107 million, the FEC forms show. That sum doubles President Barack Obama’s then-record inauguration donations in 2009, which totaled around $53 million.

Though this report shows how much money Trump’s inauguration brought in, it does not detail exactly how that money was spent. Presidential inauguration committees do not have to disclose that to the FEC.


Trump’s committee has said that any leftover money from this year’s inauguration will be given to charity, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

For his part, Fischer thinks the Inauguration Day donations should have some of the strictures of campaign donations.

“There’s no reason to think that a million-dollar contribution made after Election Day would be any less corrupting or pose any less risk of influence than a million-dollar contribution made before Election Day,” he said.

But there has been no indication about the charities the leftover money went to.

Until today.  The Inauguration Committee filed its taxes and via the New York Times, we know (sort of) what was spent:

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, while donating $5 million — less than expected — to charity, according to tax filings released on Thursday.

The nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017, the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, had been under pressure from liberal government watchdog groups to reveal how it spent the record $107 million it had raised from wealthy donors and corporations.

Its chairman, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, had pledged that the committee would be thrifty with its spending, and would donate leftover funds to charity.

But the mandatory tax return it filed with the Internal Revenue Service indicates that the group’s charitable donations included only an already publicized $3 million for hurricane relief, plus a total of $1.75 million to groups involved in decorating and maintaining the White House and the vice president’s residence.

That’s not even $5 million to charities.

So where did the rest go?  Mostly between two companies:

One of the companies, WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, California, was created by a longtime friend of Mrs. Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, according to a person familiar with the firm. Records show that the firm was created in December 2016, but otherwise there is very little information available about it.

Ms. Winston Wolkoff made her name planning Manhattan society galas and has subsequently been brought on as a senior adviser to the first lady’s official government office.


Much of the money paid to Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s firm and other event production companies likely was passed through to other vendors who provided goods or services on a subcontractor basis.

Ms. Winston Wolkoff personally received $1.62 million for her work, according to one official from the inaugural committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly. The official said that Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s firm paid the team used by Mark Burnett, the creator of “The Apprentice,” whose involvement in the inaugural festivities was requested by Mr. Trump.

Christ. Nice work if you can get it.  Sounds like it all went through middlemen, each one taking their cut, before trickling down to the actual people who did the work, if there were any.

And the other company?

Also reaping payments for event production services was Hargrove, Inc., of Lanham, Md., a company that plans trade shows and other events, which was paid $25 million. David Monn of New York, who also is known for orchestrating society events and planned a state dinner for former President Barack Obama, was paid $3.7 million, and a company called Production Resource Group of New Windsor, N.Y., was paid $2.7 million, according to the tax return.

So $27 million to a fake friend-of-Melania business, and $25 million to an ACTUAL event planner.  That’s $52 million.  $5 million to charities.  That’s $57 million.  That leaves us $50 million short.

Other expenses for which the committee paid directly included ticketing, on which it spent $4.1 million, and promotional gifts, on which it spent $560,000.

It also spent heavily on payroll and administrative expenses, including spending $9.4 million on travel, $4.6 million on salaries and benefits for its 208 employees, $500,000 on legal fees and $237,000 on fund-raising.

It strikes me that these are the legitimate expenses, totaling roughly another $25 million.  And they still have $2.8 million in the bank.  So…. I still don’t understand why it is $20 million short.

I don’t know. Even if my number-rounding accounting is flawed, it doesn’t make sense why an inauguration with smaller crowds and fewer pop stars than Obama should cost twice as much.