Perhaps not surprisingly, though definitely disappointingly, money raised for President Donald Trump’s inauguration that was promised to go to charity has completely vanished.
Presidential inaugurations are usually paid for by a host of government and non-governmental organizations — Congress pitches in, as do federal, state, and local governments. The Presidential Inaugural Committee is also established to raise money based on private donations.
Trump’s inaugural committee raised a whopping $107 million, more than any president before him — and much more than experts say was necessary.
“We’ve never had an inaugural committee that just went hog wild and raised $107 million and had a huge surplus left over,” said Craig Holman, who works for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.
Since they had a huge surplus of left over, the Presidential Inaugural Committee, run by billionaire Thomas Barrack, said that it would give the remaining funds to various charities. But so far, very little of that giving has been seen, and it’s unclear yet how much money still remains in the pot.
Some donations have been made to help victims of hurricane disasters this past summer. Renovations to the White House and the U.S. Naval Observatory (where Vice President Pence lives) have also been made. But other than that, it’s unclear what other donations have, or will, be made, or where the leftover funds have (or will) go, raising concerns of inappropriate expenditures.
“It may not be illegal, but it certainly reeks of gross mismanagement and possibly political opportunism,” Holman said.
Trump has already indicated through his refusal to release his tax returns a bewildering need to keep his finances tight. The fact that his inauguration committee is doing the same things raises more questions — and should be examined, possibly by special counsel Robert Mueller, as part of the investigation of Russian interference in our elections two Novembers ago.
But even if it has nothing to do with Russia, the fact that Trump and people close to him have made promises to award money to charities — and then reneged on those promises — is a move that’s not unfamiliar for the billionaire to make. Trump has promised millions to people over the years, only to shortchange them later on, or give nothing at all in the end.
At any rate, there needs to be more openness about where this money goes after the inauguration has taken place. A promise made a year ago, involving millions of dollars that’s supposed to be given to charitable causes, should not be so difficult to observe.