We learned this week that President Trump’s 19 trips down to his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., Mar-a-Lago, have probably cost taxpayers at least $64 million to date. Of that total, we figure that about $370,000 has been paid to Mar-a-Lago itself for hotel rooms and event space. (Much of the cost of those trips is eaten up by air transportation costs.)
That $370,000 isn’t a small sum, but it’s less than the cost of two people paying their initiation fees to become members. Luckily for Trump — who recently called serving as president “one of the great losers of all time” for how much it has cost him — Mar-a-Lago has also been the beneficiary of another type of spending: spending by political committees.
Data compiled from the Federal Election Commission and ProPublica indicate that, since the 2016 election, Mar-a-Lago has been paid nearly $300,000 from political committees for event space. Happier still for the president, that’s just a small portion of the $6.5 million ProPublica estimates was spent by political groups at Trump properties since the 2016 election.
More than $2 million of that spending was laid out at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., including at the restaurant inside it. Incumbent candidates — incumbent Republican candidates, that is — saw the Trump hotel as a good event location for their supporters in the area. Republican Party committees from various states liked to host fundraisers at Trump’s property in Miami, Trump National Doral. Trump’s campaign itself spent heavily at Trump properties, including at Trump Tower in New York. Other spending happened across the country: in Bedminster, N.J., Chicago, Virginia and Las Vegas.
The result was an intricate web of spending, as seen below. Blue dots indicate PACs spending money; orange dots are where the money went. (Increase the number of nodes to get a full sense of the spending.)
More remarkable was the regularity of that spending. From Jan. 1, 2017, through Election Day last year, a political committee spent money at a Trump property every other day. Often it wasn’t much; the daily average was about $6,000 after Jan. 1. But it was steady.
Trump’s not wrong that the presidency has been, at best, a mixed bag for him. We’ve reported before that Trump-brand property sale prices have sunk in New York City and elsewhere (with New Yorkers living in Trump-branded buildings even choosing to remove his name in part to help boost values). In other, Trump-friendlier places, Trump properties have seen a boost.
But it’s clear that nearly all of this spending is occurring at Trump properties now solely because Trump is the president. The $6 million isn’t billions in revenue, but it’s not nothing. And Trump, we assume, will take what he can get.