"One year of Trump. One year of unprecedented conflicts of interest."
In 2017, at least 4 foreign governments, 16 special interest groups and 35 Republican congressional campaign committees all spent money at Trump properties, data compiled by government watchdog group Public Citizen reveals.
And political brown-nosers aren't the only ones trying to buy their way into Trump's graces. The report includes GEO Group, one of those for-profit prison firms that profits directly from Trump policies, and none other than the the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Public Citizen has documented (press release here) 64 instances of trade groups, companies, religious groups, charities, foreign governments, interest groups, and political candidates staying in Trump properties or having events there. Examples range from the American Petroleum Institute to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to a conference for the vaping industry. The visitors identified by Public Citizen include:
• 35 political candidates or political organizations
• 16 trade or interest groups
• 4 charities, including one run by Donald Trump's son, Eric.
• 4 foreign governments
• 3 religious groups
• 2 individual companies
• 1 college football team
"There is no way to escape the conclusion that these events are being held at the Trump properties as a way to curry favor with the president," Public Citizen's Robert Weissman says. "It's just extraordinarily unlikely that these groups have an affinity for the Trump brand [that's] so great [that's] unrelated to the fact that the president happens to be named Trump."
The biggest spender was a key Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia. A public relations firm spent $270,000 on behalf of the Saudi government at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. on an undisclosed date, the report said, citing public documents and a USA Today article.
Weissman said he believed that the Saudi effort to curry favor with the Trump administration "stands out above all."
Said Weissman, "The Saudis … have been undertaking a full-fledged effort to seduce Trump and those close to him. In that light, the event at the Trump property looks even worse, and more corrupting."
Representatives of the government of Malaysia, the American Turkish Council and the Kuwait Embassy also spent money at Trump properties. Trump critics say that the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits the president from earning money from foreign governments.
Republican campaigns spent more than $305,000 at Trump properties last year. Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke's campaign for Senate spent more than $3,000 on lodging and food for its volunteers in the Trump International Hotel in D.C. in February, March and April, according to the report. Clarke ended up dropping out of the Wisconsin Senate race in July, but he has been rumored as a favorite for a future position in the Trump administration.