Unlike the incomplete, porous structure on the U.S.-Mexico border, the wall of secrecy Donald Trump has built around his finances has thus far been impenetrable. Now it appears that Trump’s campaign, too, is all-in on the financial secrecy game.
An exhaustive investigation by Salon.com has found that Trump has “charged his own campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent for offices in Trump Tower for more than five years,” but inexplicably most of those rent payment checks have gone to a post office box in the Long Island, New York suburb of Hicksville.
Trump’s campaign has refused to explain the arrangement. Salon’s interviews with state income tax and commercial property tax experts familiar with the workings of New York city and state “yielded bafflement: Comments included, ‘Totally bizarre,’ ‘No idea,’ ‘I’ve never seen something like that’ and ‘Holy s***, that’s absolutely weird.'”
Hicksville is in Nassau County, about 30 miles east of Manhattan. One theory is that “if Trump attached the Nassau County address to Trump Tower payments that should otherwise have qualified for income, payroll or occupancy taxes in Manhattan, and did not make that clear — or actively concealed it, possibly with a second bank account — that, experts say, could amount to fraud.
“Another possibility is that Trump is using the Hicksville address to hide portions of rent income, which could give him a property tax advantage in the city, where appraisers tie income to property value and tax.”
Trump campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show that Trump Tower rent started at about $35,000 a month, then went up to more than $100,000 after Trump won the 2016 Republican nomination. The current rate is $37,541.67 a month, or about $450,500 a year. It’s unclear how much space the campaign actually uses in the building.
The arrangement could be of significant interest to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who earlier this week made his clearest statements yet about the scope and focus of his criminal investigation into President Trump’s finances.
P.O. Box 1926 in Hicksville “has been described by Trump money watchers as the ‘white whale’ of Trump’s financial dealings.”
Long before he rode down the escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president in June 2015, the true extent of Trump’s true wealth has been questioned.
While he has claimed to be “really, really rich,” he has steadfastly refused to release any of his personal tax returns, claiming for five years that they all are under audit. He has most likely spent millions of dollars in legal fees fighting Congressional and New York state prosecutors’ demands that he produce them.
The obfuscation extends to his companies’ financial dealings with the U.S. government. The Treasury Department consistently stonewalls reporters who attempt to determine how much taxpayer money the federal government pays Trump’s companies for rooms used by Secret Service agents at his properties while he visits and golfs at them. Partial records only see the light of day through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.