Another Trump Mystery: What Really Happened to the Inauguration Money?

Trump Maladministration

ABC News reports,

Special counselRobert Mueller’s team has questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee last year, including questions about donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News.

Those interviewed included longtime Trump friend and confidant Thomas Barrack, who oversaw the fundraising effort, as well as individuals familiar with the massive inaugural fund, according to sources with direct knowledge. …

… The billionaire runs a fund with hundreds of millions in real estate and private equity holdings in the Middle East. Barrack oversaw the largest inaugural fundraising effort in U.S. history, bringing in $107 million – more than double what President Barack Obama raised for his first swearing-in festivities.

According to a source who has sat with the Mueller team for interviews in recent weeks, the special counsel is examining donors who have either business or personal connections in Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Several donors with those ties contributed large sums to the non-profit fundraising entity – gifts that topped out at $1 million dollars, according to public records.

According to the FED, it’s illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to a presidential inauguration committee. If any of that money can be traced to foreign sources, it’s a problem.

However, there’s another problem with Trump’s inauguration fund, because it’s widely suspected a huge amount of it wasn’t really spent on the inauguration.

How big is the discrepancy between what was taken in and what was spent? I found this at Annenberg FactCheck.org:

Inauguration costs are divided up into two categories. In one category is all the fun stuff: the inaugural balls, luncheons and Springsteen appearances. That’s also the category for things like the 20 JumboTrons placed around the National Mall and the special payment to keep the Smithsonian Institution open for the day. The fun events don’t cost taxpayers a dime. Presidential inauguration committees raise money from private donors for all the fun stuff. A spokesperson for Obama’s inaugural committee told ABC News that the committee raised about $45 million to cover the costs of events in the fun category. (A full accounting will eventually be filed with the FEC, probably in April.) Adjusting for inflation, Obama’s estimated total is about $41.4 million in 2005 dollars — or slightly less than the $42.3 million Bush raised for his second inauguration.

I found a more recent source that said Obama’s committee raised $53.2 million, although I’m not sure if that was for the first or second inauguration. There are other expenses related to the inauguration that taxpayers do pay for, and if you add it all together it can come up to $170 million or so. And of course you can find old articles in right-wing media complaining that Obama’s inauguration cost $170 million and Bush’s only $42.3 million, but they are confusing apples with apples, oranges and the rest of the farm. In fact, Bush’s and Obama’s inaugurations cost about the same, figuring for inflation. But right now, we’re only talking about the “fun stuff” paid for by the inauguration fund and not taxpayers.

So Trump’s inaurugation committee raised $107 million. In tax filings released this year, the Trump inauguration committee claimed to have spent $104 million on the “fun stuff.” But how? How was Trump’s inauguration twice as expensive as anyone else’s? Especially since the best Trump could do for a headliner was … Toby Keith?

And note that the Obamas had ten official inaugural balls after the 2009 ceremony; Trump had only three. And spent twice as much money?

I’m betting Trump’s committee spent no more than $50 million, if that. Money got shuffled around on paper to hide it somewhere. For example:

The company that received the biggest payment — $26 million — was WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, Calif. Records show that the firm was created in December 2016, about six weeks before the inauguration, and its founder, according to a person familiar with the firm, was Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a longtime friend of Mrs. Trump’s. Otherwise there is very little information available about the company.

Another $25 million went to another even-production company in Maryland. There’s $51 million right there. The tax filings don’t tell us what these two event-production companies did with the money.

To add to the suspicion, at various times last year, the White House claimed all the money had been audited and the audit would be made publicly available by various dates that came and went. It seems to have taken someone a long time to cook the books properly.

At ProPublica, Ilya Marritz wrote in March,

In this week’s episode of “Trump, Inc.,” we dig into the inauguration. We’ve found that even experienced inaugural planners are baffled by the Trump committee’s massive fundraising and spending operation. We also noticed that two members of the inaugural committee have been convicted of financial crimes, and a third — the committee’s treasurer — was reportedly an unindicted co-conspirator in an accounting fraud.

Of course.

Greg Jenkins led former President George W. Bush’s second inaugural committee in 2005, which raised and spent $42 million (that would be $53 million in today’s dollars). Asked about how Trump’s team managed to spend so much more, Jenkins said, “It’s inexplicable to me. I literally don’t know.”

“They had a third of the staff and a quarter of the events and they raise at least twice as much as we did,” Jenkins said. “So there’s the obvious question: Where did it go? I don’t know.”

Steve Kerrigan, who led both of former President Barack Obama’s inaugural committees, agreed. “There was no need for that amount of money,” said Kerrigan. “We literally did two inaugurations for less than the cost of that.”

So, I’m not crazy for thinking that the $104 million claim makes no sense.

The committee’s treasurer, Doug Ammerman, was named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in a tax shelter fraud in the early 2000s, according to The Wall Street Journal. Ammerman was a partner at the accounting firm KPMG, which later admitted criminal liability. A Senate investigation from the time includes emails from Ammerman suggesting he was aware of the scheme.

Ammerman is also currently accused in a shareholder lawsuit of dumping stock in a grilled chicken chain, El Pollo Loco, where he was on the board, ahead of a bad quarterly report. Ammerman did not respond to requests for comment.

The finance vice-chair for the inaugural committee, Elliott Broidy, pleaded guiltyin 2009 to paying bribes to get investments from the New York state pension fund. His felony conviction was later downgraded to a misdemeanor. Broidy, a top Trump fundraiser, has also come under scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Broidy did not respond to requests for comment.

Ooo, Elliott Broidy has a lot to answer for.

Another inaugural organizer was Rick Gates, the former deputy to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Gates pleaded guilty this year to lying to the FBI and to conspiracy in a vast money laundering scheme, charges that came from Mueller’s office.

At the time that Gates worked on the inauguration, he had not been indicted, but his dealings with former Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych had already come under scrutiny. Gates’ business partner, Manafort, was forced off of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016 after it was reported he got nearly $13 million of undisclosed payments from Yanukovych. Gates did not respond to requests for comment.

And then there’s this:

We found one more thing that set this inauguration apart: Some of the donations are almost impossible to trace. As the Center for Responsive Politics reports, two “dark money” groups, which do not disclose their donors, gave $1 million each. Trump’s inaugural committee appears to have been the first to accept significant donations from dark money groups.

So, I’m saying that at least $50 million raised by the inauguration committee was not spent on the inauguration and probably is sitting around in a slush fund somewhere, if it hasn’t already gone into a lot of pockets belonging to the Trump family and their various enablers-in-crime.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Diane  •  May 11, 2018 @5:11 pm

    Rachel Maddow has been asking the same question.

  2. Swami  •  May 11, 2018 @5:30 pm

    I wonder if $1.2 million of it went to pay for an abortion/hush money via Essential Consultants. or some other shell company that has yet to be revealed? Whatever it turns out to be Mueller has a crack team of treasury agents who specialize in uncovering financial frauds at his disposal. Trump was using the pretext of claiming he couldn't release his tax returns because he was under audit from the IRS. I highly suspect that this year's audit will be a bit more comprehensive than years past.

  3. uncledad  •  May 11, 2018 @7:13 pm

    "I highly suspect that this year's audit will be a bit more comprehensive than years past"

    Swami, surely the President can't be audited can he? According to Gulliani et. al.  he can't be subpoenaed, he can't be indicted, he can't be convicted, he can't have conflicts of interest, he can't obstruct justice………Surely he can't be audited, can he?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SF1iLXSQto

  4. Doug  •  May 11, 2018 @7:19 pm

    I'm not sure is skimming from your own inaugural slush fund is illegal. From what I hear on Maddow, the reporting rules are much more lax on the inaugural money compared to FEC rules on money raised for elections. If it was only unethical, and the details are reported, it will be damaging especially if Trump was taking foreign money and some of it wound up in his bank account.

    Looking at the slush fund Cohen was running, the payments by AT&T make sense – they were paying for something they wanted. Cohen seems to have as a major component of his defense that he didn't deliver for what he was paid. But a half million was paid by a subsidiary of a Russian fat cat. Flynn, Don Jr., Sessions, Manifort, and Kushner (off the top of my head) were eager to talk to Russians for Trump for FREE! Why would any Russian pay when Trump has always jumped through any hoop Putin has held up?

    If anyone has ideas, I'm listening, but.. Trump had to know his money is under watch. Was it difficult for Trump to recharge the slush fund for illicit expenses Cohen has – NDAs and other bribery? Somebody paid an agency in Israel to try to create a scandal for Obama-era diplomats who wrote the Iran deal. Did Trump need a secret means to pay into Cohen's slush fund so Cohen could pay for dirty tricks? Were the Russians contacted by Cohen, for Trump asking for an infusion w/ no questions and no expectations?

  5. Tom_b  •  May 11, 2018 @9:48 pm

    Swami, I’m sure it would be a Divine Abortion and would be sanctified and celebrated by Franklin Graham and the rest of his ilk.

    What would you hypothetically get when you cross a porn star with a Trump? A much better looking, smarter Trump than any we have so-far encountered.

    I like the way Stormy (and Avenetti) are bringing The Don to his knees; a bit of a reversal, that.

  6. aj  •  May 11, 2018 @10:46 pm

    Broidy is the thread to pull on. Find out just who had the playboy bunny affair and paid for it with donations.

    Melania is more popular than dickhead but what did her friend do with 26 million, how did she become a citizen after Barron was born and how did her parents chain migrate in. She is complicit when she does not address how it is ok to split up immigrant families but it is ok for her family to benefit.

  7. aj  •  May 11, 2018 @10:49 pm

    another question- time to count how many Russians showed up at the balls, etc. Vekselberg and Veselnitskaya ( lawyer at trump tower) were there. Why were they celebrating?

  8. Swami  •  May 13, 2018 @2:29 am

    uncledad… Well, it won't be your traditional audit. It will be closer to a financial dissection. Avenatti got it right when he said that money trail won't lie. And knowing Trump with his recklessness in thinking that he's got it all under control by his bombast and denials he's going to end up getting snagged. Trump is a prisoner of his corrupted nature so he doesn't have the self control to pass up the opportunity to grab some easy money even if it's illegally gained.

     

  9. c u n d gulag  •  May 13, 2018 @8:39 pm

    Compared to the REAL theft that tRUMP and his minions are getting away with, this missing 50+/- million bucks seems like just another very small brick in a humongous wall.

    If tRUMP's plan was to make every American so sick of having to hear about a new scandal 10 times a day that they stop caring at all, then it's working.    

     

  10. feckless  •  May 14, 2018 @11:03 am

    So what your telling me is that there is no uranium, no email servers, nor Benghazi, so it's a non story. 

    Wait, I bet there is some incriminating emails so skip that one, to recap: no uranium, no benghazi, no (GO)problem.

    If a democratic politician had refused to release his inauguration audit, much less his tax returns, ABC news would have a counter visible on all their news shows giving the # of days since the info was supposed to be released.

    *There is an entity known as "The Crazy Chicken" involved and the liberal media doesn't think the story has 'legs'?

    Eff-it, 'wing it' and go live.

  11. Brewlord  •  May 14, 2018 @6:54 pm

    If we ever see the accounting, I suspect some of it went for appearance fees for various family members