Adelson, Sheldon G

Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm of First Lady’s Friend

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One of the companies, WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, California, was created by a longtime friend of Mrs. Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, according to a person familiar with the firm. Records show that the firm was created in December 2016, but otherwise there is very little information available about it.

Ms. Winston Wolkoff made her name planning Manhattan society galas and has subsequently been brought on as a senior adviser to the first lady’s official government office.

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump, said that the first lady “had no involvement” with the inaugural committee, “and had no knowledge of how funds were spent.”

Ms. Winston Wolkoff is not paid for her work in the first lady’s office, according to Ms. Grisham, who said Ms. Winston Wolkoff is classified as “a special government employee.”

Much of the money paid to Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s firm and other event production companies likely was passed through to other vendors who provided goods or services on a subcontractor basis.

Ms. Winston Wolkoff personally received $1.62 million for her work, according to one official from the inaugural committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly. The official said that Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s firm paid the team used by Mark Burnett, the creator of “The Apprentice,” whose involvement in the inaugural festivities was requested by Mr. Trump.

Also reaping payments for event production services was Hargrove, Inc., of Lanham, Md., a company that plans trade shows and other events, which was paid $25 million. David Monn of New York, who also is known for orchestrating society events and planned a state dinner for former President Barack Obama, was paid $3.7 million, and a company called Production Resource Group of New Windsor, N.Y., was paid $2.7 million, according to the tax return.

Other expenses for which the committee paid directly included ticketing, on which it spent $4.1 million, and promotional gifts, on which it spent $560,000.

It also spent heavily on payroll and administrative expenses, including spending $9.4 million on travel, $4.6 million on salaries and benefits for its 208 employees, $500,000 on legal fees and $237,000 on fund-raising.

The inaugural committee official said that wrap-up costs were more significant than had been anticipated, and indicated that the committee’s finances were affected by the fact that it never struck a large deal for broadcast rights to the inaugural balls.

The $107 million raised by the committee was about twice as much as Mr. Obama’s inaugural committee raised for the festivities around his 2009 swearing-in.

Mr. Barrack, a California investor, in a statement released by the committee with the tax return, praised the committee for carrying out the inauguration and more than 20 related events with “elegance and seamless excellence without incident or interruption, befitting the legacy and tradition that has preceded us.”

The inaugural committee closed out October with $2.8 million in the bank, according to the tax filing. It indicated in the release that the remaining funds also would be donated to charity once remaining expenses are paid.

The tax return indicated that the committee already donated to six nonprofit groups, and inaugural officials pointed out that the $5 million in total charitable donations to those groups was more than Mr. Obama’s committee donated.

Among the recipients of charitable donations, the White House Historical Association received $1 million, while the Vice President’s Residence Foundation, which is devoted to decorating and furnishing the Vice President’s residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington, received $750,000. The Smithsonian Institution received $250,000.

The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical group, received $1 million each. All three groups were involved in relief efforts after a string of hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Caribbean.

As questions mounted last summer about the inaugural committee’s finances and pledged charitable donations, Mr. Barrack released a statement promising that “millions of dollars of reserve funds will be allocated to various charities, institutions, and foundations in an amount that surely will exceed any previous inauguration.”

The inaugural committee split the costs of staging a range of festivities with the taxpayer-funded Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and various federal, state and local government agencies. Security costs alone were predicted to be upward of $100 million, which will eventually be paid for by the federal government.

Among the top donors to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee were the Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon G. Adelson, who donated $5 million, and corporations including Chevron, Boeing, and AT&T.

The committee had previously filed a mandatory report with the Federal Election Commission listing its donors, and the donor names were redacted from the I.R.S. filing released Thursday. The bulk of the report — about 90 pages — was comprised of a list of donation amounts without the identities of the corresponding donors, including a page-and-a-half of in-kind donations, such as a musical performance valued at $729,000 and vehicle and equipment expenses valued at a total of $631,000.

It was not immediately clear who donated the musical performance or the other services.

The inaugural committee was criticized for staging an extravagant concert on the National Mall featuring performances by the country music star Toby Keith and the rock band Three Doors Down. The concert reportedly cost $25 million.

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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