After receiving criticism for covering President Donald Trump's legal bills related to the Russia probe last year, the Republican National Committee chose a more creative path to financially assisting the president: paying $37,000 a month in rent to his company.
The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump's company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence 's nephew, John Pence, party officials confirmed this week. The rent pays for office space in the Trump Tower in New York for the staff of Trump's re-election campaign. John Pence is the Trump campaign's deputy executive director.
According to campaign finance experts, the arrangement is odd but falls within legal bounds.
"This is permissible and it's being reported properly, but why they are doing it is a mystery," said Brendan Fischer, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. "One would think the RNC could be spending their money more effectively right now on the 2018 campaign, rather than spending it to pay Trump's rent."
Since payments began in September, the RNC has saved the Trump campaign $290,000, but its rationale for taking on such payments has not been explained publicly.
The Trump campaign is not hurting for money, and typically committees do not cover such expenses.
One of the Trump Organization's biggest political customers is the Trump campaign itself, which by any measure, is flush with cash. In 2017, the campaign and two affiliated committees raised $32 million and ended the year with $22 million in cash.
This is in large part because the Trump campaign never ended. Trump filed the paperwork to run for re-election the day he was inaugurated, the first president ever to do so. Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, did not formally launch his re-election campaign until April 2011, after serving more than two full years in office.
When questioned on the issue, the RNC did not respond:
"Why would [The RNC] be blowing through their allowed expenditures now, on something the campaign can easily afford?" Fischer said. "Did they think they needed to show loyalty to Trump by paying the rent at the building Trump owns?" CNBC relayed this question directly to officials at the RNC, who did not respond.
The White House referred questions to the RNC and Trump campaign, and Vice President Mike Pence's office declined to comment.