FOIA Litigation Reveals $344,008.28 in Taxpayer Money Spent at Trump Properties

Washington, DC — Over the past year, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation filed by the transparency organization Property of The People (PoTP) has produced receipts and other documents revealing an excess of $344,008.28 in emoluments from US government agencies at Trump properties.  Property of the People is publishing these documents in their entirety today in their new searchable archive.  A full list of document urls is attached below in our note to editors.

Via a partnership with our colleagues at ProPublica, these documents, in addition to others, have been integrated into an evergreen interactive news application for journalists, activists, and researchers to track how Donald Trump and his family trust are profiting off the US Presidency.  Titled “Paying the President” this news app highlights $16.1 million in campaign and agency payments made to Trump properties since the 2015 announcement Trump’s campaign, including $386,474.66 of taxpayer money.  Federal taxpayer data will be regularly updated and remains incomplete because agencies are fighting disclosure.

PoTP’s newest documents show expenses of $79,618.25 spent at Trump properties by the State Department, and $3,768.94 spent at Trump properties by the Department of Commerce since President Trump took office.

To date FOIA litigation from PoTP has uncovered the following agency payments at Trump properties:

  1. $147, 379.50 in Department of Defense expenditures at Trump Properties from January to June, 2017;
  2. $108,876.55 in Department of Homeland Security expenditures at Trump Properties across three events in January 2017, May 2017, and February 2018;
  3. $79,618.25 in Department of State expenditures at Trump Properties since February 2017;
  4. $3,768.94 in Department of Commerce expenditures at Trump Properties since January 2017;
  5. $2,604.57 in Coast Guard expenditures at Trump Properties from February to June 2017;
  6. and $1,760.46 in General Services Administration expenditures at Trump Properties from February to June 2017.

The State Department and Department of Commerce documents uncovered build upon earlier discoveries by PoTP, and show that it is both standard practice for Donald Trump to charge government employees the maximum posted rate (also known as the “rack rate”) for stays at Mar-A-Lago. Property of the People co-founder Sarahjane Blum explains, “setting up a situation where the American public is forced to pay the exorbitantly high rack to get the work of governing done is one of the many ways the Trump presidency is setting up and normalizing kleptocracy.”

Sarahjane Blum explains these emoluments on WNYC’s Trump Inc,

“Donald Trump views the American public as a bunch of marks waiting to be fleeced,” said Property of the People co-founder, Ryan Shapiro.Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American Presidency into a racket.”

Added Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh, “Repeatedly, our FOIA litigation has revealed blatant financial conflicts of interest resulting in the transfer of taxpayer dollars to Trump properties and likely constitutional violations. We expect this is only the tip of the iceberg, and we fully intend to aggressively continue our FOIA work exposing kleptocracy at the highest reaches of government.”

In September 2017, documents obtained by Property of the People from the Coast Guard and DHS revealed National Security Council and other agency  payments to Mar-A-Lago and Trump Hotels. These documents provided the first strong evidence of Trump’s violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.  These revelations also informed Senators Gary Peters, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Udall’s decision to introduce the HOTEL Act — Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging — banning executive officials from staying at any property owned by the president, vice president, Cabinet secretaries or their families members.  A house version of the bill (H.R. 5304) has also been introduced by congressman Jamie Raskin.

A Note to Editors

Property of the People has organized these government charge card documents and others together as part of their Operation 45 project.  The projects full archive can be browsed online HERE.  For journalists and editors who would like URLs for individual documents we have organized them by agency below.

  1. State Department Charge Card Expenses: Production I, Production II
  2. Department of Commerce Charge Card Expenses: IOS Release I, IOS Release II, IOS Release III, IOS Release IV, IOS Release V
  3. Department of Defense Charge Card Expenses: March 2018 receipt Production, Summary Chart
  4. Department of Homeland Security & Coast Guard Charge Card Expenses: DHS Production I, Coast Guard Billing Statements, Coast Guard, NSC and Embassy Expenditures, FY16 + FY17 bundle
  5. General Services Administration Charge Card Expenses: GSA Production

About Property of the People

Property of the People is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit transparency organization dedicated to governmental transparency in the service of democracy. The organization was co-founded by Ryan Shapiro, Jeffrey Light, and Sarahjane Blum. The organization’s motto is, “The records of government are the property of the people. It’s time we reclaim them.” Property of the People is on twitter @propOTP

Ryan Shapiro is a PhD candidate at MIT, a former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Shapiro is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.

Property of the People and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light assisted by Property of the People staff attorney, Gunita Singh.

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