Deep in the Swamp: It’s More Than His Taxes

Image by Harvey Finch, used under Creative Commons license

After promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Trump has proved to be among the biggest swamp critters there. The New York Times finally got copies of tax returns that Trump still refuses to release to the public. They found that he paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and $750 in 2017, and that he paid no federal income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years.  Other recent reports show his resorts making money from his visits and a new directive that will use taxpayer money to boost his re-election campaign.

Trump has bragged that he gets away with not paying taxes because he is smart. “Smart” apparently means things like deducting $70,000 for haircuts as a business expense, and inflating administrative costs for his businesses. Even with all of that, reports the New York Times, he is in over his head, personally on the hook for more than $400 million, due to be paid in the next few years. 

“The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise.

“Most of Mr. Trump’s core enterprises — from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington — report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year.”

Paying the Trump Organization

But that’s not all. While president, Trump has steered government business to his resorts and golf clubs. The Washington Post reported that Trump’s “luxury properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office — including for room rentals at his Bedminster, N.J., club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic.”  

The rentals are for aides and assistants and Secret Service officers who accompany Trump wherever he goes. And he goes a lot–he has visited his own hotels and resorts 274 times since becoming president. His son, Eric Trump, said federal officials are charged nominal fees. That’s a lie. The Washington Post reports:

“Instead, government documents show that the Trump Organization has charged as much as $650 per night, and sometimes tacked on additional charges beyond the room rate. Agents guarding Vice President Pence were charged $29-per-night “resort fees” at Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas. In Scotland, Trump’s Turnberry resort once charged the Secret Service $1,300 to move furniture, according to a receipt from July 2018 that was released by the government this year.

Ad Campaign

Now Trump appears to be using the federal government to fund his own campaign. He has ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to launch an advertising blitz, at a cost of more than $300 million in taxpayer dollars, to “defeat despair” over the coronavirus before the election. Politico reported that the ad blitz was personally ordered by the president. 

“But 10 current and former health officials told POLITICO that they have concerns about the campaign’s scope, goals and even how it has been funded — by pulling money out of health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control that are in the midst of fighting the pandemic, rather than working with lawmakers to set up a brand-new advertising effort with congressional oversight, or drawing on substantial internal resources and expertise in running health-related public service campaigns. 

“‘CDC hasn’t yet done an awareness campaign about Covid guidelines — but they are going to pay for a campaign about how to get rid of our despair? Run by political appointees in the press shop? Right before an election?’ said Josh Peck, a former HHS official who oversaw the Obama administration’s advertising campaign for HealthCare.gov.

“‘It’s like every red flag I could dream of,’ Peck added.”

Sounds like a pretty deep swamp to me. 

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