The Slatest

Report: Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm Founded by Melania Trump’s Friend

Event planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff at Trump Tower in New York on December 5, 2016.
Event planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff at Trump Tower in New York on December 5, 2016.
Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Tax filings for Trump’s inaugural committee have revealed that the committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm founded weeks before the inauguration by a personal friend of the first lady, according to reporting by the New York Times.

The committee, which was charged with overseeing the inauguration and related events, had raised a record $107 million from donors and corporations. It came under scrutiny by watchdog groups, and its chairman, Tom Barrack Jr., a personal friend of Donald Trump’s, had vowed the committee would be tight with its budget and give all remaining funds to charity, according to the Times.

But the committee in reality spent large amounts on the administrative elements of the planning, including $9.4 million on travel and $4.6 million on salaries and benefits, according to the Times. The $26 million paid to WIS Media Partners, the firm founded by Melania Trump’s friend, was mostly redirected to subcontractors that provided services for the events.

The friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, had become known for planning Manhattan parties, according to the Times. She socialized in the same circles as Melania and was brought on as a senior adviser to the office of the first lady. Two anonymous sources told the Times that she “often invoked Mrs. Trump’s name” in her position on the inauguration committee. (A spokeswoman for the first lady said Melania was not involved in the planning.)

According to one source, Winston Wolkoff was paid $1.62 million for her work, but committee officials said she used that money to pay her employees.

The Times also found that the committee donated far less than expected to charity. Apart from the $3 million the committee already said it donated for hurricane relief, the remaining budget allotted $1.75 million for groups dedicated to the decoration and maintenance of the White House and the vice president’s residence. It also donated $250,000 to the Smithsonian Institute. Some $57 million in total went to event planning companies.