It started, oddly enough, with legal bills. We learned in the fall that the Republican National Committee, for reasons that have never been altogether clear, paid for Donald Trump’s and Donald Trump Jr’s attorneys as part of the Russia scandal – but no one else’s.
The story took a turn when we learned last week that the RNC is also paying Trump’s former bodyguard generously as part of a consulting contract.
CNBC moved the ball forward the other day, noting that the RNC eventually stopped paying the president’s legal bills, at which point it started covering Trump’s re-election campaign expenses.
The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump’s company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew, John Pence, party officials confirmed this week. The rent pays for office space in the Trump Tower in New York for the staff of Trump’s re-election campaign. John Pence is the Trump campaign’s deputy executive director.
Campaign finance experts who spoke to CNBC said this type of spending by a party committee on behalf of a campaign is highly unusual but legal, and it appears the RNC disclosed it correctly.
“This is permissible and it’s being reported properly, but why they are doing it is a mystery,” said Brendan Fischer, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “One would think the RNC could be spending their money more effectively right now on the 2018 campaign, rather than spending it to pay Trump’s rent.”
Quite right. The point isn’t that the arrangement is somehow untoward. Rather, what’s amazing about this is that our self-professed billionaire president has a re-election campaign operation in place, housed in a building the president still owns and profits from, and despite the fact that the operation has millions of dollars in the bank, it’s the Republican National Committee that’s using donor money to help Trump’s campaign with the rent.
This comes on the heels of Washington Post reporting from last summer, which said the RNC and other Republican political committees spent nearly $1.3 million at Trump-owned properties in 2017 – and that was long before the year was even over.
Whether party donors actually mind any of this is unclear.