Everyone in Trumpland is Dodging Questions About Missing Inaugural Millions for Charity
President Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $106.7 million. That figures nearly doubles the then-record $55 million raised for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. The figure was made public in April 2017. At that time, President Trump’s inaugural committee submitted their “Report of Donations Accepted” to the Federal Elections Commission. A list of all the donors, and their donations, can be found here.
When asked where all that money went, spokesman for the inaugural committee Alex Stroman delivered the perfect “Trump” answer. First, he made sure everyone knew that it was the “best inauguration ever”. Then, he took a shot at “fake news” sources which had been speculating about the expenses. Stroman said,
President Trump’s inaugural committee was an unparalleled success. It would be irresponsible to rely on “uninformed anonymous sources” for information about the inaugural committee’s finances.
That was in June of 2017.
Likely, no one would care about a detailed accounting of the finances, were it not customary to donate any surplus funds to charity. This was the intention of Trump’s inaugural committee as well. By doubling the record for donations, charities could be in line to receive quite a windfall. At the time of the pledge, however, the committee had not identified the specific charities slated to receive donations.
In September 2017, Chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee Tom Barrack said the committee’s donations to charity “surely will exceed any previous inauguration,” but that a public disclosure of the committee’s finances would not be released until he end of November. Barrack did assure the Associated Press that “a full and clean external audit has been conducted and completed.” He would not provide the AP with a copy, nor would he even verify who performed the audit. Or better yet, why an audit was necessary? Much like Stroman’s claim about the inauguration, Barrack wanted everyone to know Trump’s donation to charity would be the “biggest and best ever”, but he also could provide no proof?
At the end of September 2017, the inaugural committee pledged $3 million to aid in hurricane relief. Announcing the donation, Tom Barrack said,
The surplus of these privately donated funds will be put to great substantive use for relief victims throughout the heartbreaking regions of America impacted by the recent catastrophic disasters. The committee will continue to curate worthwhile causes and make further contributions that serve America’s agenda and will conclude in accordance with its charter in the next few months.
Contacted by USA Today recently, the American Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse responded that they do not disclose information about donors. The Salvation Army did not respond at all.
Now, a full year after the inauguration, the committee still has not disclosed whether it has actually disbursed any funds to charities. How does it plan to disburse any remaining funds? Are there even are any remaining funds? When asked this week whether such disclosure were forthcoming, Tom Barrack’s spokesperson Kristen Celauro told USA Today,
We must decline comment at this time.
Here is what is known.
It cost a lot more for Trump’s inaugural committee to hire entertainers than it did Barack Obama’s. Trump seemingly paid more for less. Team Obama reportedly spent $5 million to stage a concert with Beyonce, U2, Bruce Springsteen, and Garth Brooks. Denzel Washington, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, Steve Carrell, and Queen Latifah participated in the event. Team Trump spent $25 million for Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down, Jackie Evancho, Lee Greenwood, the Rockettes, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. No wonder Trump did not look happy during the show.
Some funds did go towards renovations at the White House and the Naval Observatory (the residence of Vice President Pence and his family). Like donating surpluses to charity, this is a common use of inaugural donations. It prevents taxpayers from footing the renovation costs when new families occupy the official residences. Per the same USA Today article, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham referred any questions about the amount spent to the inaugural committee.
Whether actually delivered or not yet, the committee has pledged $3 million to hurricane relief efforts.
The bottom line is, President Trump’s inaugural committee is not required to give anything to charity. As the New York Times reported after President Obama’s then-record fundraising in 2009, Presidents seeking re-election (and Trump seemingly began running even before his inauguration) can apply any surplus to their second inaugural, should they win re-election. They promised donations, however, so reporters will keep asking regularly.
Are citizens to believe that Donald J. Trump will donate money to charity that he could otherwise keep and spend on his own aggrandizement? Will Trump’s inaugural committee EVER provide a detailed accounting of where the $106.7 million in donations were spent, or will this turn out to be another case like Trump’s tax returns, where the public keeps hearing promises, but they are never delivered?
Featured image by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images.
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Dave Weaver is a freelance political journalist and author. Born in Pennsylvania, which was home most of his life, Dave has called Maryland, New York, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, and Maine home over the last decade. All the wandering has allowed Dave to experience America (and Americans) from a variety of perspectives. For a political junkie, the insights gained from this exposure are invaluable.