RNC has spent more than $424,000 at Trump properties so far this year

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON DC — The Republican National Committee spent over $424,000 at Trump properties in the first two months of 2018, according to Federal Election Commission documents.

In just February, according to FEC documents made public Tuesday, the RNC spent more than $271,000 on venue rental and catering at Trump properties in Florida and Washington, DC.

FEC filings also show that starting in September 2017, the RNC has paid $37,000 monthly to rent space in Trump Tower for the Trump campaign, totaling over $225,000 so far.

The $271,000 is about 86% of the committee’s entire spending on venue rental and catering for the month, and more than the committee has spent in a single month at a Trump property since the beginning of 2017. Overall, 14% of RNC spending on venue rental and catering has gone to Trump properties since the beginning of 2017.

After he was elected President, Donald Trump placed his business into a trust controlled by his adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, but did not liquidate his holdings or let an independent manager handle the trust without his knowledge — the approach favored by past presidents and by ethics experts because it separates the president’s personal profit motive from his decisions on behalf of the government.

The arrangement has drawn criticism from ethics watchdogs, who say it allows for the appearance of a conflict of interest.

An RNC official said donors enjoy visiting Trump properties, and also pointed to security, convenience and price as factors in the committee’s decision-making. The official added that Trump properties are often cheaper to rent than other venues, noting that the FEC demands the RNC receive market rates.

RNC spending at Trump properties in 2018 is up significantly from the previous year; the committee spent just over $222,000 on venue rental and catering at Trump properties in all of 2017. More than half of that spending came at a single July 2017 event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC (for which the hotel was paid $121,250).

The RNC spending at Trump properties in February is also up from recent months. Excluding Trump Tower rent, the committee spent about $44,500 in December 2017, $79,000 in January and $271,000 in February at Trump properties. Almost all of the February spending came from two events at Trump’s Doral golf club in Florida and another event at the Trump hotel in DC.

Since the beginning of 2017, the RNC has spent nearly $800,000 at Trump properties, including the monthly rental payments and the spending on venue rental and catering.

FEC records also show that the RNC has paid John Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew, over $7,000 a month since September for his work on the Trump campaign, where he serves as a deputy executive director.

The RNC has also made several payments to Parscale Strategies LLC, the company belonging to Trump’s 2020 campaign manager,Brad Parscale.

Parscale’s company received a series of $15,000 fees from the RNC throughout the summer of 2017, totaling $60,000. From November through the end of February 2018, the RNC paid the firm more than $2.5 million.

In addition to the spending at Trump properties and Trump-linked consulting firms, CNN reported that the RNC spent more than $230,000 in August of last year to cover some of President Trump’s legal fees associated with the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In addition to the RNC’s spending, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s official campaign arm, spent just over $1,500 at Trump properties in February, FEC filings show.

The RNC raised $12.8 million in February and entered March with over $42 million in cash on hand.