Habits can be hard to break, and for Donald Trump the habit of wringing personal profit wherever he can seems to be just too irresistible.
The most recent case, involving relatively few dollars but a clear problem of profiteering, had to do with his latest book, Crippled America (or Great Again, in the paperback). On May 10, a Trump campaign that by them was floated in large part by external donations, made an unusual purchase at Barnes & Noble books: For more than 3,500 copies of Crippled, at full price.
In a stateent, "A spokesperson for the Republican nominee told The Daily Beast the books were purchased “as part of gifting at the convention, which we have to do.” Sure enough, delegates in attendance at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July were given canvas tote bags, stamped with the Trump slogan, and filled with copies of Crippled America, as well as Kleenex and Make America Great Again! cups, hats, and T-shirts. Delegates were also given plastic fetus figurines."
That full-price purchase is highly unusual. At that kind of volume, Trump surely could have gotten a deep discount from B&N, or if not from it then from his publisher. But if the campaign bought the books at such a discount, Trump personally wouldn't profit from the sale. That presumably means money going from campaign donors into Trump's personal pocket.
Presumably. There's a catch here: This kind of personal profiting from a campaign, by a candidate, is forbidden under federal election law. So we'll have to wait and see how the money ultimately is accounted for. But a profit scheme by Trump seems to have been the original idea.
That case at least went through an outside publisher. A great deal of Trump spending since the start of his campaign has gone directly to Trump companies.
The Daily Beast reported on February 29 that "Between June 16, when he announced his candidacy from the lobby of Trump Tower, through the end of 2015, the Trump campaign spent $2.2 million patronizing Trump businesses. The majority—$2 million—was spent on Tag Air Inc., where Trump is CEO."
There is, of course, much more: "The Trump campaign also made 34 visits to Trump Cafe and Trump Grill, restaurants in Trump Tower where you can eat Ivanka’s Salad (diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, mediterranean cured olives, feta cheese and romaine lettuce with greek dressing…$18) the Gold Label Burger (our premium blend of Angus short rib, sirloin and Kobe brisket…$19) and Mr Trump’s Mother’s Meatloaf (a family recipe, served with mushroom gravy…$13.50).
And paid $90,000 in in-kind rent to Donald J. Trump, Trump CPS LLC, and Trump Plaza LLC. Rent and utilities were also doled out—to the tune of nearly $74,000—to Trump Restaurants LLC and Trump Tower Commercial LLC."
A case could be made that if Trump wants to spend his campaign's money on his own businesses (which he does not exclusively but heavily), in effect wasting a good deal of it, that it's between Trump and his backers.
But it raises some real questions about what might happen if Trump were elected. What sort of spending patterns might we see at the White House, and around the federal government?
We might have gotten one clue back in 2011, when Trump was also mulling a possible White House bid. In a conversation in that period with the chief executive of NBCUniversal, the two discussed what would become of Trump's show The Apprentice if he ran and won. One of the ideas: Host the show from the White House.
The reportage about that conversation is a little thin, so I'll not try and hang it on Trump too tightly. But it has a place here, because after all the other self-interested things Trump has done in the last year, the account at least sounds perfectly credible. - rs