President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington ahead of his 2017 swearing-in, according to internal documents seen by ABC News.
It is part of an array of expenditures there and elsewhere that included more than $130,000 for customized seat cushions at two gala dinners for the president-elect, $10,000 to provide makeup to the servers at another formal dinner, and $2.7 million to a company that produced a Broadway-style rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” using Las Vegas show girls flown in by Trump pal Steve Wynn for a private event, ABC News adds.
Compared to past inaugurations, the festivities surrounding Trump’s swearing-in were modest in scale – the non-profit group established to oversee the celebration hosted only three major events. But the amount of money involved was record-breaking – with more than $107 million raised and $104 million spent, double the amounts of President Barack Obama’s first inaugural.
“These inaugural committees if there’s not good transparency and disclosure, can turn into slush funds. That’s why you need to have requirements that they disclose what the spending is, where it’s coming from, put some limits on the kind of spending that’s appropriate, so that it’s really going towards inaugural needs, and not other purposes,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, who has served on the House Oversight Committee.
House Oversight Committee member Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who has previously served on the committee, said he expects Democrats to look into the way the money was both raised and spent. “It’s all the more reason why there has to be sunshine on both ends — who is actually donating to the committees and how this spending is going to be done,” Krishnamoorthi told ABC News.
Trump’s inauguration committee was led by the President’s longtime friend Thomas Barrack. He was not paid as part of his role overseeing the inaugural festivities. ABC News reached out to a spokesman for Barrack.
Already there had been questions about how that money was spent. Tax filings disclosed the five largest vendors included payments of nearly $26 million to an event planning firm run by a one-time adviser and close friend of Melania Trump.
The adviser, Stephanie Winston-Wolkoff, created a company called WIS Media Partners based in California that handled some of the festivities. That firm paid out contracts to other sub-contractors that were hired and used some of the funds to hire sub-contractors. Winston-Wolkoff was also paid $1.62 million directly for her work, ABC News has previously reported.
Internal financial documents reviewed by ABC News on Monday show spending that was not required to be included on public tax filings. Those records outline in granular detail how money was, in some instances, directed to pay Trump’s political advisers. That included nearly $2.7 million to the company of Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who handled digital operations for the inaugural. A separate company, Fortalice Solutions LLC, which specializes in cyber protection, was paid $450,000.
The inaugural committee shelled out $130,000 to Tiffany & Company, which a source confirmed was to provide guests with salad bowls.
The documents also show sizeable amounts spent on the travel and feeding of dozens of friends and aides in the days leading up to the inauguration. According to the filings, for example, the committee paid $25,000 to reimburse hotel expenses for longtime Trump pal, real estate executive Howard Lorber. A breakdown of Melania Trump’s friend, Winston-Wolkoff’s company expenses shows thousands of dollars spent on dining, lodging and travel including $24 in Uber rides to “pick up exec meds,” and $13 to “drop off Jon’s laundry,” a reference to a Winston-Wolkoff aide. Her company’s expenditures also included a $12.72 Uber reimbursement for a ride ordered for Hollywood producer Mark Burnett, creator of “The Apprentice,” the show that launched Trump into reality TV stardom, ABC News adds.