Republicans used to ignore Trump’s resorts. Now they’re spending millions.

Source: Politico | November 11, 2019 | Anita Kumar

After Trump launched his presidential campaign, GOP spending at his businesses has soared.

In 2017, Sen. Steve Daines’ campaign dropped $281 at Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas. The following year, the Iowa Republican Party paid $945 for rooms at a Trump resort in Miami. And four months later, Protect the House, which funnels money to House Republicans, spent $154,500 to rent out part of the Trump hotel in Washington.

In total, nearly 200 campaigns and political groups — virtually all conservative — have spent more than $8 million at President Donald Trump’s resorts and other businesses since his election in 2016, according to a yet-to-be-released report from the liberal-leaning consumer rights group Public Citizen obtained by POLITICO.

That wasn’t the case before the real estate mogul and reality TV star got into politics.

Between 2012 and 2014, campaigns and political groups spent a combined $69,000 at Trump businesses, according to the report. But since June 2015, when Trump announced he was running for the White House, political spending at the president’s properties has topped $19 million. Some of the initial surge was related to the Trump campaign’s using a Trump company plane during the 2016 election, but much of the uptick comes from conservative candidates and groups.

House Democrats, who have launched a broad impeachment investigation that currently includes whether Trump has illegally profited from his businesses while president, say Republicans are trying to curry favor with the president by spending money at his businesses. Some may even be trying to gain access to the president, who has visited his own properties more than 300 times since he was sworn into office.

“President Trump has perfected the financial shakedown of people seeking political influence as a way of life,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House Oversight Committee. “This is now standard operating procedure in Washington. It’s pay-to-play all day.”

At least another 179 foreign governments, businesses, trade associations and religious entities — some with interests before the federal government — have frequented Trump properties, according to Public Citizen, which gathered data from Federal Election Commission records, social media and news reports.

That includes 28 foreign governments — including Azerbaijan, India, Kuwait, Turkey, Ukraine, Malaysia, Romania and Saudi Arabia — as well as 41 conservative advocacy organizations, 51 businesses or business groups, 16 charities, 16 religious groups, 12 state or local groups, nine foreign businesses or business groups and six police or fire organizations. For example, T-Mobile executives stayed at Trump International Hotel in Washington while seeking a green light from the federal government for a merger with Sprint.

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