Checks & Imbalances: Trump’s Revenue Stream, Australia’s Jet-Setting Billionaire – Forbes

Welcome to the Checks & Imbalances newsletter. Today, we look at Trump profiting from candidates his endorsement and a jet-setting Australian businessman who’s trying to get politicians to back his latest venture.

Trump-Endorsed Candidates Have Funneled At Least $1.4 Million Into His Businesses

Donald Trump, a man known for torching norms, has developed a novel business model. From his perch at Mar-a-Lago or summer residence at one of his New Jersey golf courses, the former president doles out endorsements to longtime elected officials and wannabe Republican nominees, influencing primaries across the country. Meanwhile, those candidates, who come from all over to visit him, pour money from campaign donors into Trump’s properties, paying for food, lodging and conference space. So far, he has collected at least $1.4 million from the candidates he’s endorsed in 2022, according to a Forbes analysis of campaign disclosures.

It’s a small amount of money for Trump, who is worth an estimated $3 billion. But given that it costs the former president nothing to make an endorsement, he gets a nice return on his investment. About one-third of the 224 candidates the former president has endorsed in the 2022 midterms have reported making payments to his businesses via their political committees. About 70% of these customers reported paying a Trump business before picking up his support, while the rest became patrons afterwards.

Like a lot of businesses, Trump’s scheme relies on a set of loyal customers. Just five candidates are responsible for 50% of the money Trump has collected from his endorsees. The biggest of the bunch: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has spent $252,000 at Trump properties, 99% of which came between Trump’s election in 2016 and the end of his term.

Challenging the California Republican for the top spot is Senate hopeful Herschel Walker of Georgia. A former Heisman Trophy winner who played for Trump’s New Jersey Generals of the now-defunct USFL, Walker has doled out $199,000 at Mar-a-Lago in less than a year. If he keeps spending at his current pace, he should overtake McCarthy in a matter of months.

Rounding out the top five spenders is a trio of other first-time candidates. John Gibbs, who served as assistant Housing and Urban Development secretary under Trump and is now running for Congress in Michigan, has spent $98,000. Former Trump Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now contending for governor in Arkansas, dropped $90,000. And Kari Lake, a one-time news anchor at a Fox affiliate in Phoenix, has shelled out $70,000 amid her bid to become governor of Arizona.

Geographic proximity doesn’t seem to matter much to those seeking Trump’s endorsement. Kelly Tashiba, who is trying to unseat Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, spent $33,000 at Mar-a-Lago, 3,900 miles from her home state. Of the 10 biggest spenders, only one has a Trump property in the area he hopes to represent. But even that candidate, senate contender Adam Laxalt of Nevada, didn’t spend the money at the property near his home—in this case the Trump hotel in Las Vegas—instead shelling out $41,000 at Trump properties in Florida and Washington, D.C. The Sunshine State is home to a number of Trump properties, as well as the man himself, but Trump’s 15 endorsees from Florida have spent only $29,000 at his businesses altogether.

It’s likely that Trump has collected more than the $1.4 million Forbes was able to identify. Some states do not require candidates to itemize their expenses, including South Dakota, whose governor has made multiple trips to Trump properties. Trump has endorsed some foreign politicians too, like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, but those leaders do not have to submit U.S. campaign-finance disclosures. American candidates do have to make filings, but submission of documents always lags the actual spending. That means the former president, who continues to bestow blessings, is almost certainly continuing to collect more money.

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In Case You Missed It

Australian Mining Billionaire Touts A Green Revolution In U.S. Coal Country — With Skepticism Trailing Close Behind

“Andrew Forrest travels the globe trying to persuade leaders of industry and politics—and rank-and-file workers—that despite his polluting past he’s the man to champion green hydrogen as the clean fuel of the future,” reports David Jeans:

Forrest, the richest man in Australia, faces incredulity in the U.S. not only because the honcho of the metals industry, which is responsible for a chunk of the planet’s carbon emissions, seems like an odd missionary for green energy, but also because the infrastructure to achieve his vision doesn’t exist yet. Forrest has yet to produce a molecule of hydrogen and a recent flurry of announcements are far from firm contracts…

To promote his hydrogen venture, Fortescue Future Industries, or FFI, Forrest has in the past year met with President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, among other world leaders.

Continuing Irresolutions

Updates on Checks & Imbalances’ previous reporting

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) is retiring from politics after losing the GOP runoff for a senate seat earlier this week, tweeted Olivia Beavers of Politico. In July, having already spent $25,000 in campaign funds at Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Brooks said he wanted to  “do fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago as often as I can.” His campaign never returned. Now it appears it never will.

Pennsylvania Senate Candidate Donated To Trump PAC, Which Then Funded A Group That Bought Ads Against Her

Kathy Barnette, who placed second in the Pennsylvania GOP primary for Senate, tweeted that she’d donated to Trump’s Save America PAC. (FEC records confirm that she contributed $1,700 in November 2020.)

That PAC later sent $2 million to groups that ran ads against Barnette, tweeted Shane Goldmacher of the New York Times.

Trump Organization Cuts Asking Price For Caribbean Estate

“A Trump palace in St. Martin has cut its asking price again, from $16.9 million to $15.5 million,” reports Dan Alexander:

Once listed at $28 million, the Trump Organization has been trying to sell the property since at least 2017. It was around that time that the price dropped to $16.9 million. After years of sitting idle, the price fell again to $15.5 million. The exact date of the recent reduction remains unclear, but it seems to have taken place in the end of 2021 or beginning of this year.

Tracking Trump

Donald Trump’s Save America committee is holding a contest in which one donor will win a hotel stay and round of golf, as well a visit with Trump. The contest doesn’t specify the hotel or golf course, but the former president does own several of each.

Editor’s Picks

  • “Gun control group political arms brought in more money in May than the first quarter of 2022 combined” (OpenSecrets)
  • “Meet the Billionaire and Rising GOP Mega-Donor Who’s Gaming the Tax System” (ProPublica)
  • “Ron Johnson tried to subvert democracy. These corporations are backing his reelection.” (Popular Information)
  • “Former House Ag chair lobbying on cattle market bills” (Politico)
  • “Group led by Colorado attorney general criticized for potential conflicts” (Axios)
  • “The Andrew Gillum indictment includes the use of a 501(c)(4) organization as a passthrough for a campaign contribution to Gillum’s PAC, complete with a text message saying ‘need to move 250K thru a C-4 ASAP’” (Twitter/Matt Corley of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)
  • “Companies that claim to back the LGBTQ community send political contributions to state lawmakers who advanced anti-transgender bills” (OpenSecrets)
  • “Koch Political Operation Spends Big on GOP Primaries” (The Center for Media and Democracy)
  • “Pipeline contractor Precision Pipeline has agreed to pay a $7,500 fine to FEC after it improperly withheld union PAC political contributions from 13 employees’ paychecks for several months in 2016” (Twitter/Michael Beckel of Issue One)
  • “American influence has a new address on State Street” (Politico)
  • “Thiel vs. Hoffman: Stanford Takes Toledo” (Puck)
  • “The attorney hired by Wisconsin Republicans to review the 2020 election performed his initial work on a computer at the New Berlin public library because he didn’t have a computer of his own. He was paid $11,000/month by taxpayers soon afterward.” (Twitter/Patrick Marley of the Washington Post)
  • “More Members of Congress Refuse to Cooperate with Ethics Investigations” (Campaign Legal Center)
  • “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s husband just spent up to $295,000 on stock in companies that contradict the Republican lawmaker’s BLM and LGBTQ stances” (Insider)
  • “Republicans launch super PAC to stop Greitens in Missouri” (Politico)
  • “Intel adds GOP aide amid chips-funding push” (LegiStorm)
  • “Democratic comms director moves to K Street” (LegiStorm)

In Closing

“Feel the rhythm in the cars

Rollin across the state line”

– Ratt, “So Good, So Fine”

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