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For Trump's Campaign, the Candidate Is Also the Landlord

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign attributes a four-fold increase in rent over two months to an “expansion” of the campaign.
Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meets with active and retired law enforcement at a Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Akron, Ohio, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016.Gerald Herbert / AP

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is paying Donald Trump a lot in rent.

The GOP nominee's campaign fought back on Tuesday after criticism of drastically increased rental costs at the team's own office space at Trump Tower in Manhattan, attributing a four-fold increase over two months to an “expansion” of the organization.

“The campaign expanded from part of a single floor by adding the entirety of two separate floors. Overall, we still pay over $40,000 less in rent than the Clinton campaign,” a Trump spokesperson said in a statement.

New filings to the Federal Election Commission found that the amount of rent Trump’s presidential campaign pays to Trump Tower Commercial LLC, the owner of the building that houses his campaign headquarters, has risen steadily since April.

In July, Trump spent $169,785 on rent compared to $110,684 in June, which is a huge jump from the $35,457 rental payment the campaign paid from August of 2015 until April of 2016, according to an analysis by NBC News.

The Huffington Post first reported the major increase in the rental payments.

That report led to accusations that Trump's company hiked the rent in order to convert donors' campaign contributions into profits for the real estate mogul just as he was stepping up external fundraising efforts. Trump's team dismissed those charges, pointing out the candidate's own injection of millions of dollars from his own fortune into the campaign's coffers.

The first full month Trump was an official candidate, in July of 2015, Trump paid just under $26,000 in rent. The following month, his rental payments to Trump Tower increased to $35,457 monthly until May 2016, when the amount doubled to $72,800. Presumably, that May increase was to make up a missed payment in October of 2015 when no payment was recorded on campaign finance reports.

The biggest boost in rental payments came this past June, when Trump stopped paying for the lion's share of his presidential run – other than a $2 million monthly contribution - and started soliciting campaign donations. At that time, payments tripled from $35,457 to $110,684.

Within the month that Trump’s rental payments tripled, his fundraising from supporters also quadrupled from $6.7 million in May to $26.7 million in June. And in July, when Trump’s rent payments to Trump Tower increased again to $169,000, Trump’s campaign cash intake also increased to $36.7 million.

Campaign finance law requires that a campaign must pay for any activity used for political purposes, or else it would be considered a donation that must follow contribution limit guidelines.

As Trump's campaign points out, the Clinton campaign has spent a greater total amount on rent for her Brooklyn headquarters. She has spent $2.5 million compared to Trump’s $717,000 on rent.

But Trump’s $170,000 expenditure on rent in July is still less than the amount Clinton paid in rent -- $208,000.

The two campaigns also have vastly different footprints when it comes to staffing. The Trump campaign has fewer than 100 staff members on payroll, which includes both personnel in the field and those based in Trump Tower. The Clinton team, meanwhile, has more than 700 staffers on payroll – seven times more than Trump.

Trump, the only modern-day presidential candidate with ownership stake in so many properties, has consistently been under the microscope for the use of his facilities for campaign events.

Trump has spent more than $600,000 on rentals for his own facilities, including $48,239 on Trump National Golf Club in Westchester in July and $423,371 on his Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago, according to May financial reports. He also reimburses his company TAG Air for flights on his private plane in which he spent $495,000 in July, $466,464 in June, and $641,840 in March.