Des­tined for char­ity, left­over Trump in­au­gu­ra­tion money miss­ing in ac­tion

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Jeff Hor­witz and Julie Bykow­icz AP writ­ers

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ral com­mit­tee raised an un­prece­dented $107 mil­lion for a cer­e­mony that of­fi­cials promised would be “work­man­like,” and the com­mit­tee pledged to give left­over funds to char­ity.

Nearly eight months later, the group has helped pay for re­dec­o­rat­ing at the White House and the vice pres­i­dent’s res­i­dence in Wash­ing­ton.

But noth­ing has yet gone to char­ity. What is left from the mas­sive fundrais­ing is a mys­tery, clouded by messy and, at times, bud­get-bust­ing man­age­ment of a pri­vate fund that re­quires lit­tle pub­lic dis­clo­sure.

The As­so­ci­ated Press spoke with eight peo­ple — ven­dors, donors and Trump as­so­ci­ates — in­volved in plan­ning and po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing for the cel­e­bra­tion. The peo­ple de­scribed a chaotic process marked by last-minute de­ci­sions, staffing turnover and lit­tle fi­nan­cial over­sight.

Among the head-scratch­ing line items was the pre-in­au­gu­ral Lin­coln Memo­rial con­cert, which came with a $25 mil­lion price tag, ac­cord­ing to four of the peo­ple. The price dwarfs a sim­i­lar event staged eight years ear­lier for Obama’s first in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Tom Bar­rack, chair­man of the pri­vate Pres­i­den­tial In­au­gu­ral Com­mit­tee, and other for­mer com­mit­tee of­fi­cials said the in­au­gu­ra­tion was a great suc­cess but de­clined to an­swer de­tailed ques­tions from AP about how money was spent. Bar­rack said keep­ing the books closed was no dif­fer­ent from any past in­au­gu­ra­tion.

In a re­cent state­ment, Bar­rack said the com­mit­tee’s do­na­tions to char­ity “surely will ex­ceed any pre­vi­ous in­au­gu­ra­tion,” but will have to wait un­til the end of Novem­ber, when he said the com­mit­tee would pub­licly dis­close de­tails about its fi­nances.

Bar­rack told the AP in June that “a full and clean ex­ter­nal au­dit has been con­ducted and com­pleted” of the in­au­gu­ral com­mit­tee’s fi­nances, though the com­mit­tee would not share a copy with AP or say who per­formed it.

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