White House

Who paid for all those job applicants to visit Trump Tower?

Police outside the Fifth Avenue public entrance to Trump Tower in New York.
Police outside the Fifth Avenue public entrance to Trump Tower in New York. AP

Since the election, more than 100 potential appointees to Donald Trump’s administration have traveled from all over the country to Manhattan to meet with the president-elect. The ways these transition meetings are financed have been as varied as the candidates themselves.

When South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley traveled to Trump Tower in November, the Republican Governors Association and the Republican National Committee covered her travel costs, according to her office. After the meeting, Trump nominated Haley to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In other cases, state taxpayers picked up the tabs for their officials’ trips to New York. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who was appointed vice chairwoman of the Trump-Pence presidential transition team, used the state plane for her visit to Trump Tower. The trip cost Oklahomans more than $6,000, mostly for the cost of the fuel.

Most people who responded to McClatchy’s requests for information had paid their own way. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue traveled to New York in a Delta coach seat “with no mention or expectation of reimbursement,” his spokesman said.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also went a budget-savvy route. He used his Southwest Airlines frequent flier miles to pay for the flight to New York, which, according to a spokesman, cost him only $5.60. And he found an unusual deal in a $125 hotel room in New York.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who was under consideration for treasury secretary but was ultimately passed over, paid for his travel to Trump Tower with campaign funds, according to a spokeswoman.

The cost of the presidential transition itself is split between public and private dollars. Presidents-elect financed their own transitions until 1963, when the Presidential Transition Act allowed for public funding. The law put the General Services Administration in charge of providing support for a smooth transfer of power.

This election cycle, the GSA received $9.5 million in taxpayer funds to support Trump’s transition. This can be used for staff compensation, office space, travel and communication, among other needs. The funds comprise $6 million for support as requested by the president-elect and vice president-elect, $1 million for orientation of political appointees and $2.5 million to support the outgoing president and vice president.

While some of these funds are usually spent on office space and administrative support in Washington to plan the transfer to the White House, Trump set up his transition headquarters in his New York skyscraper.

The president-elect is also allowed to raise funds to pay for transition expenses.

President Bill Clinton covered more than 60 percent of his transition costs with private dollars. He raised $5.3 million and spent $3.485 million of the appropriated funds. Obama’s team spent $5.2 million in appropriated public dollars and $4 million in private donations, while President George W. Bush’s transition spent $5 million in private money and $4 million in public funds.

During Obama’s transition, his campaign chairman, John Podesta, announced that the team would not accept donations from federal lobbyists, corporations, political action committees, labor unions and foreign agents. At the time, Podesta called it the “strictest and most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.”

Alex Daugherty, Tony Pugh, Curtis Tate and Greg Gordon contributed to this report.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen

Historic costs for transition planning

GEORGE H.W. BUSH (1988)

Public dollars spent: $2.3 million (of $3.5 million appropriated).

Private dollars spent: $0.

Percent private: 0%.

BILL CLINTON (1992)

Public dollars spent: $3.485 million (of $3.5 million appropriated).

Private dollars spent: $5.3 million.

Percent private: 60%.

GEORGE W. BUSH (2000)

Public dollars spent: $4.0 million (of $4.27 million appropriated). Note: Does not include additional $1 million appropriated for appointee orientation.

Private dollars spent: $5.0 million.

Percent private: 55%.

BARACK OBAMA (2008)

Public dollars spent: $5.255 (of $5.3 million appropriated). Note: Does not include additional $1 million appropriated for appointee orientation.

Private dollars spent: $4.0 million.

Percent private: 43%.

Source: Center for Presidential Transition, with the Partnership for Public Service

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