Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He revealed the names of the million-dollar donors to his inaugural committee--but not where the millions of dollars left over are going.

In a break with tradition, Trump refused to immediately disclose the identities of the corporations and lobbyists who gave more than $106.7 million in support of his inauguration festivities. Instead, he shielded them until the very end of the 90-day window, sending the FEC documents yesterday that were released to the public today.

Donations like these are always laden with the implication that they are attempts to buy influence, although Trump's explicit promise to million-dollar donors of "exclusive access" to him at a candlelight dinner, and other paid-for meetings with senior officials, dramatically increased donations. In 2009, President Obama raised the previous record total of $53 million, but with $50,000 per-donor limits.

Unlike the 2009 inauguration, however, Trump's inauguration was a relatively thrifty and limited affair, which the campaign scaled back as the date drew near. The money left over, which should be in the millions, now disappears entirely from the view of regulators. Trump has said he'll give the money to charity--a kind of promise he has frequently made and seldom kept in the past--but nothing prevents him from secretly (or openly) giving the money to allied political organizations

Why should I care about this?

  • The more untraceable political money a president attracts, the more likely it is that the corporations and lobbyists giving it think they're buying influence.
  • Hiding who has given you money until the last possible minute is something you do when you want to hide who has given you money until the last possible minute.
  • Pulitzer Prizes have been won covering just how unlikely it is that Donald Trump will fulfill a pledge to pass other people's money along to charity.