Donald Trump’s tax records show more than $21m in highly unusual payments from the Las Vegas hotel he owns with Phil Ruffin was routed through other Trump companies and then paid out in cash, The New York Times reports.
The sudden windfall in 2016 came as Trump’s presidential campaign was short on funds. Tax records seen by the paper do not specify what the payments were used for, but they do show they flowed through to Mr Trump himself.
Towards the end of his run for president, Mr Trump unexpectedly contributed $10m to the campaign.
The funds went through a company named Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing that, according to the tax records investigation, had little previous income, no clear business purpose, and no employees.
The hotel joint venture wrote the whole amount off as a business expense.
Legal and tax experts consulted by the paper say that if the payments were not used for actual business expenses, and were claimed as such to get a tax deduction, then that would be illegal.
In addition, if they were not legitimate expenses and were used to fund the Trump presidential campaign, they could also be considered illegal under campaign-finance laws.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere called the paper’s findings “yet another politically motivated hit piece inaccurately smearing a standard business deal”.
Jennifer Renzelman, a spokesperson for Mr Ruffin, said that he was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the hotel, and that tax statements go to the people that work on his taxes.
In what would seem like an effort to resolve a shortage of cash, between January and April 2016, Mr Trump sold approximately $38.5m in stocks.
He also approached Deutsche Bank for a loan , but was unexpectedly turned down. Some bankers reportedly feared the proceeds might be directed to the campaign rather than to the Turnberry golf resort in Scotland.
It is after that that the windfall from the Las Vegas hotel occurred.
Mr Ruffin contributed a total of $2.5m to his business partner’s campaign, foundation, and inauguration fund, and even spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2016, saying that “Donald’s word is his bond".
The New York Times alleges that once Trump had taken office he asked him to help push through approvals for the bullet train project to bring tourists and gamblers from Los Angeles to the Las Vegas strip in just 90 minutes.
Under the Obama administration a $5.5bn loan for the train had been turned down, but in March 2020 approval was granted to sell $1bn in tax free bonds to private investors.
Additional bonds were approved by Nevada and California, and trains could now be running as soon as 2024, potentially creating much needed economic growth for Las Vegas to the benefit of hotel and casino owners — including Donald Trump.
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