The line between ethical and Trump is routinely straddled by Donald Trump and his campaign, particularly when it comes to money. On Thursday, Politico reported, another murky move by the Trump campaign as Federal Elections Commission records show that the Secret Service has paid Trump $1.6 million in reimbursements for Secret Service agents who fly on the candidate’s plane. Politico points out it’s standard practice for the agency to reimburse candidates for campaign travel—and the Clinton campaign has been reimbursed $2.6 million in Secret Service travel expenses—but since Trump owns the company TAG Air, Inc. that owns the plane he’s flying, the U.S. Secret Service is, essentially, making payments to Trump himself.
There is, of course, nothing intrinsically untoward about flying your own plane, although there is the potential issue, one which Trump has never shyed away from, of the appearance that you’re profiting from your campaign “I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Trump famously said when contemplating a presidential run a decade-and-a-half ago.” What is problematic, particularly when it comes to the appearance of a conflict of interest, is the emerging trend that Trump repeatedly directs campaign dollars and, in this case federal taxpayer dollars, to vendors he owns. Politico ran the numbers on Trump’s of FEC records through August and found “Trump’s campaign has spent at least $8.2 million at Trump’s own businesses, including to hold events at his hotels, buy food from his restaurants and rent office space for its headquarters in his Manhattan office tower.”