News & Politics

Donald Trump Took $107 Million Promised to Charities... And Kept It

The money hasn't gone to help anyone but Trump.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Occupying the White House has proven lucrative for Donald Trump. He’s been able to charge the Secret Service hundreds of thousands for rental space and golf carts. He’s been able to turn his Washington Hotel into a place where the emoluments clause is put to constant test. But the AP reports that no other cash-in matches the one Trump took on day one.

President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee raised an unprecedented $107 million for a ceremony that officials promised would be “workmanlike,” and the committee pledged to give leftover funds to charity.

The $107 million is a massive amount for even the most lavish inauguration. It’s almost twice what Barack Obama took in for a celebration that was much more widely attended and which included many more events. Trump even cut back on the number of inaugural balls to only two, compared to the ten balls that the Obamas attended in 2009. With twice the money and one fourth the events, all but a handful of the $107 million gifted to Trump for the inauguration should be available for charitable giving.

It’s been eight months. How much has been given out? None. None at all.

Nothing has yet gone to charity.

What is left from the massive fundraising is a mystery, clouded by messy and, at times, budget-busting management of a private fund that requires little public disclosure. 

Donald Trump wants attention for giving $1 million to those affected by recent hurricanes—donations that so far haven’t actually happened. But he’s still sitting on a massive heap of cash from January which, despite promises, hasn’t gone to help anyone but Trump.

What information has been provided on the fate of this huge pile of cash has been confusing, and simply unbelievable. Of particular interest: The $25 million Trump inaugural concert.

The opening concert featuring Toby Keith and Three Doors Down was broadly similar to concerts put on for Obama in 2009 and Bush in 2005 — except for the cost and size.

Bush’s inaugural committee spent $2.5 million on its concert on the National Mall. Obama’s concert had 10,000 ticketed seats — twice the size of Trump’s — and cost less than $5 million, said Kerrigan, and was produced at a high enough level that HBO paid for the rights to telecast it.

In addition to those ticketed seats, 400,000 people showed up to celebrate Barack Obama’s inauguration with a pre-inaugural concert in the National Mall. In 2017, the area that had been covered with Obama supporters played host to a much smaller group out to cheer on Trump. The total attendance for Trump’s concert has been estimated at just 10,000 people

But while President Obama provided a lengthy concert with some of the biggest names in music, Trump’s provided a handful of country cover bands, Youtube “celebrities” and military bands who had no choice but to attend.

Trump appeared onstage at the end to do what he normally does: praise the size of the crowd, marvel at how well he and his team had pulled the thing off, and brag about how unprecedented this more or less routine-seeming event had been. 

Somehow, Trump supposedly blew through $25 million for this abbreviated event that seemed more suitable for a county fair. In a small county. It’s an amount that seems amazing even to the people on Trump’s own campaign committee.

“I couldn’t tell you how we possibly could have spent $25 million on a concert,” said Kerrigan.

After a campaign in which he repeatedly, and inaccurately, bragged that he was “self-funding,” Trump was rewarded with an astounding pay-off from those who had business before the government. He promised to give the funds to charity and … didn’t. That’s a problem that’s all too familiar.

In January 2016, [Trump] held a high-profile fundraiser for veterans’ causes, but it took him four months — and pressure from the media — to follow through on his pledge to donate $1 million of his own money. During the campaign, Trump’s longtime personal foundation came under fire for its use of other people’s money to fund his charitable pledge.

Now Trump isn’t giving out the money—even if it was never supposed to be his.

 

Mark Sumner is the author of the nonfiction work "The Evolution of Everything" as well as several novels including "Devil's Tower."

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