WASHINGTON ― Former President Donald Trump can no longer funnel Republican donor money into his own pockets, but he has found other GOP candidates willing to do it for him.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who helped plot an effort to dump Trump as the 2016 nominee at that summer’s convention, had a $5,300-per-person fundraiser set for this past Saturday at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago social club in Florida. And South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has scheduled a $4,000-per-person one for March 5.
Trump is the sole owner, and now a full-time resident of, the Palm Beach swimming, tennis and croquet club that has been a frequent site of Republican National Committee and Trump campaign fundraising events since the spring of 2016, when Trump took control of the party.
“He’s back in the hotel business,” said Steve Duprey, a former RNC member from New Hampshire. “I guess he never left.”
How much, exactly, the Lee and Noem campaigns spent to hold their events at Mar-a-Lago will not be publicly revealed until they file campaign reports with the Federal Election Commission and the South Dakota Secretary of State, respectively. Lee will have to file a quarterly report in April, but Noem will not have to disclose her spending for nearly a year. Both are up for reelection in 2022.
Alex Wong/Getty Images South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem campaigns for then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) outside the Gritz Family Restaurant on Jan. 3, 2021, in McDonough, Georgia.
Neither Trump’s office, Lee’s campaign nor the Trump Organization, the former president’s family business that operates most of his properties, responded to HuffPost queries regarding the fundraisers. A woman answering a phone number for Noem’s campaign hung up after being informed she was speaking with a reporter.
During the years of his presidency, Trump had the RNC and his campaign spend $8.5 million in donor money at his own businesses, according to a HuffPost review of FEC records. This included $639,031 spent at Mar-a-Lago for hosting a handful of fundraising lunches and dinners.
Given how enamored with Trump so many Republican donors remain even after his election loss and the subsequent insurrection he incited at the Capitol, Lee’s and Noem’s events will likely help them in the long run, even if Trump has charged them hefty catering and hall rental fees, Duprey said. He added that he expects other GOP candidates to follow suit.
“It probably is a good investment,” said Duprey, who was defeated for reelection to the RNC for not being sufficiently pro-Trump. “If you’re trying to appeal to supporters of the president’s, that is a great place to do it.”
Republican candidates and committees outside Trump’s control spent $2 million at his properties during his four years in office, according to the HuffPost review.