Unconcerned about the appearance of funneling money into Donald Trump’s coffers, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) paid more than $10,000 to hold a fundraising event at Trump’s D.C. hotel.
Originally reported by the Washington Post in November, Rohrabacher’s fundraiser has taken on new life as part of a broader look by Public Citizen into an “array of interest groups trying to cozy up to Trump by spending money at his properties.”
The report documents evidence from 64 different groups or individuals who have either stayed at Trump properties or hosted events at one. The report’s authors lamented that this amounted to “effectively paying tribute to Trump by frequenting his properties.”
According to the Washington Post, “Between Election Day 2016 and the end of September of this year, federal political committees reported paying at least $1.27 million to Trump entities, according to Federal Election Commission filings.”
Not a single penny came from Democrats.
The Public Citizen looked more broadly than the Washington Post, finding foreign governments, trade associations, and even companies that forked over thousands of dollars to Trump.
“Companies with major financial interests at stake with the federal government have been big users of Trump properties,” Public Citizen notes. “Corporate interests who have held or are planning to hold events at Trump-owned locations include the National Mining Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and GEO Group, a private prison company that benefited from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ reversal of an Obama-era decision to phase out private prisons.”
Rohrabacher says he raised more than $100,000 at the fundraiser he held at the Trump Hotel. The California congressmen’s staff insisted there were no unethical motivations, simply that Trump’s “properties are set to a standard that is very elegant.”
(Recent health inspection reports from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida found 15 health violations in the club’s two main kitchens.)
No matter the reason given by Rohrabacher’s staff, events at a properties owned by Trump raise serious ethical questions for both Trump and those holding the events.
A recent USA Today editorial summed it up this way: “Now, lobbyists, corporations, foreign investors or anyone else looking to curry favor with Trump can go the direct route. They can join one of Trump’s luxury golf clubs where he dines, golfs and holds court on many weekends. Or purchase a condo, penthouse or mansion from the Trump Organization, or make use of the Trump International Hotel just down the street from the White House.”
Rohrabacher denied trying to curry favor with Trump through the selection of a venue to host a fundraiser, but Trump nonetheless profited from the venture.
Rohrabacher’s blasé attitude toward serious ethical conflict is worrisome. The embattled congressman has already seen his powers as a subcommittee chairman curtailed by his fellow Republicans because of his unusually close ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Perhaps spending more than two decades as a congressman has warped Rohrabacher’s sense of ethics.
Voters will have a chance to weigh in on Rohrabacher’s cozy relationship with Trump come November.