Did Trump Violate The Law When Using Campaign Funds To Buy His Own Book?

A lot of people have said part of Trump’s motivation for running for President was to able to cash in on the venture. Sure enough, FEC disclosures have shown an inordinate amount of money being spent by the Trump campaign on businesses and ventures in which Trump either owns or has a stake. Trump doesn’t fly around in that plane of his on his own dime. The campaign pays Tag Air Inc. a pretty penny (million of dollars) for Trump’s use of that plane. The CEO of Tag Air Inc? Donald Trump.

The latest one however, could land him in hot water with the FEC. Here’s what the Daily Beast says:

Donald Trump used his campaign funds to buy thousands of copies of his own book at retail cost, simultaneously diverting donor money back into his pockets while artificially boosting his sales figures. It’s a tactic that may be illegal, campaign finance experts say.

On May 10, the Trump campaign paid Barnes & Noble $55,055, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission. That amounts to more than 3,500 copies of the hardcover version of Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, or just over 5,000 copies of the renamed paperback release, Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America.

A spokesperson for the Republican nominee told The Daily Beast the books were purchased “as part of gifting at the convention, which we have to do.” Sure enough, delegates in attendance at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July were given canvas tote bags, stamped with the Trump slogan, and filled with copies of Crippled America, as well as Kleenex and Make America Great Again! cups, hats, and T-shirts. Delegates were also given plastic fetus figurines.

The Republican National Committee did not respond when asked to confirm that its presidential candidate was required to spend tens of thousands in campaign funds on copies of his own book. And a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, asked if they’d ever done something similar, said, “We think we’ve probably purchased a copy or two just to have in the office, but the campaign has never purchased her book in bulk or anything close to that.”

Nobody really cares about Hillary Clinton, because nobody bought her book anyway.

The question of illegality comes into play if the candidate receives royalties on those same purchases. That is a no-no:

Paul Ryan (not that one), of the nonpartisan nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, said that Trump would have to forgo accepting royalties for sales on the book in order for the transaction to be legal, under Federal Election Committee rules.

“It’s fine for a candidate’s book to be purchased by his committee, but it’s impermissible to receive royalties from the publisher,” Ryan said. “That amounts to an illegal conversion of campaign funds to personal use. There’s a well established precedent from the FEC that funds from the campaign account can’t end up in your own pocket.”

So far, all of the parties being asked — the Trump campaign, the RNC and publisher Simon & Schuster — have all refused to comment on the matter.

There is one last interesting nugget from this story. It seems making purchases such as this from brick and mortar bookstores like Barnes & Noble also contributes to books appearing on best seller lists when the full retail price is paid. That wouldn’t happen if the campaign bought copies from Amazon or directly from the publisher.