I’m Actually Laughing at How Little Trump’s Campaign Cares About the Law

The stunning Rosslyn skyline, plus some ducks. :-)
Photo: AP

If you had to place bets on which presidential campaign would do some big ol’ election law violations, though I don’t know why you would have to do that, you would be insane to put your money on anyone other than Donald Trump’s. According to the conservative Washington Examiner, the Trump campaign has once again potentially stumbled ass-backwards into some sketchy campaign finance shit.

The paper reports that a campaign official boasted about campaign manager Brad Parscale getting a reduced rate for their office space in Rosslyn, VA, just across the river from D.C., by offering a lump-sum payment for the whole two years:

“Brad found out about it and went to them and said, ‘Hey, would you do a lump sum payment cash up front for the next two years? They said, ‘Sold!’ We took it off their hands and sublet it from them. And it came with all the furniture,” the official said. “We saved millions of dollars. I think Brad said we got it for about $36 per square foot, which is bargain-basement for well-situated commercial real estate in Northern Virginia.”

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$36 per square foot “would have saved the campaign about $1 million over the original lease terms, which specify roughly $57-$58 per square foot,” according to the Examiner. Don’t sleep on the “and it came with all the furniture” brag, either; my dude is frickin’ PUMPED about not having to go to IKEA.

The official added:

“We would not normally have such sleek office space,” the official told the Examiner as he sat in a boardroom with a view of the Washington Monument. “This was a steal. The president was thrilled. We saved multiple millions of dollars. Brad found it and the deal was struck.”

My man, congrats! Absolutely sick deal! Except that under campaign finance law, anything that is provided for less than market rate could be considered an in-kind contribution. For example: If I normally sell pizzas for $20 each, but I offer them to the Bernie Sanders campaign for a special rate of $15 each, that can be considered an in-kind contribution of $5 per pizza.

It’s not totally clear whether or not the Trump campaign’s lower rate constitutes an in-kind donation, in part because it’s subleasing the space. Republican former FEC chair Bradley Smith told the Examiner that campaigns “can’t get a good deal that’s not available to anyone else” without violating the law. But if the leaseholder was just desperate to lease the space that was sitting unused, or any other usual reason that a leaseholder might reduce the rent on a sublease, that wouldn’t necessarily be a violation.

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Regardless, it is funny in that not-very-funny way how blasé the Trump camp is about things like this. It doesn’t do to think about this stuff much, but just this once, as a treat, imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama’s campaign had offhandedly told a paper that they got a “steal” on the rent for their campaign office. It would be a 24/7 story on Fox News; Breitbart reporters would be combing the leaseholders’ Facebook pages for any clue that they supported Democrats at any point in their lives, calling their moms, and so on.

Ok, stop thinking about that hypocrisy now; there’s no point. Stop it. STOP IT.

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Libby Watson

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com