A dog rescue charity with links to Lara Trump has spent as much as $1.9 million at former President Donald Trump’s properties over the last seven years and will drop an additional quarter-million at his Mar-a-Lago country club this weekend.
According to a permit filed with the town of Palm Beach, Florida, Big Dog Ranch Rescue estimates it will spend $225,000 at the club where Donald Trump has taken up full-time residence since leaving the White House. All the profit from that spending winds up in his pocket.
Internal Revenue Service filings show that the group has spent as much as $1,883,160 on fundraising costs at Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s golf course 18 miles north in Jupiter starting in 2014. Lara Trump, the wife of Eric Trump, started being listed as a chairwoman for charity events in 2018, and the group’s president, Lauren Simmons, visited the White House in 2019 for the signing of a bill addressing animal cruelty.
Late Friday night, Simmons issued a statement defending her association with Lara Trump, whom she described as a great advocate of dogs, and her use of Donald Trump’s properties.
“The quality of service, beauty of the venue and excellent rate provided us as a nonprofit as well as the generosity of supporters who sell-out our event there every year allows us to rescue and home thousands of dogs. Our investment there and at the other venues mentioned in the article has netted more than $12 million over an eight-year period which allows us to continue our mission,” Simmons said.
However, she did not respond to the question of why she was putting money into the pocket of someone who tried to overturn the results of an election he lost and whose incitement led to the deaths of three police officers and injuries to 140 more.
Spokesman Chase Scott responded later that Simmons’ views about the election or her politics generally were beside the point. “The sole objective of our fundraisers is to raise as much money as possible to save as many lives as possible. Politics play zero role within our organization and to infer they do does a disservice to the many who work and volunteer with a passion to heal and home our beloved dogs,” Scott said.
Many businesses have cut their ties to Trump following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, for which Trump was impeached after he spent two months lying about the election having been “stolen” from him. Trump asked his followers to gather in Washington, D.C., on the day Congress was meeting to certify the Electoral College votes, and then urged them to march on the Capitol to intimidate his own vice president into violating the Constitution and installing Trump for another term.
Simmons, however, was among those propagating Trump’s lies on social media, posting messages to “stop the steal,” a phrase the defeated president’s supporters had adopted. On Jan. 3, three days before the mob attack, Simmons shared a post stating: “Either we TAKE power back or we will never be free again. No more asking nicely.”
The charity briefly pulled back from using Mar-a-Lago immediately after Trump’s 2017 remarks praising the racist, anti-Semitic protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, but ultimately held its March 2018 fundraiser there anyway, even while many other charities abandoned Mar-a-Lago for good.
Daughter-in-law Lara Trump has been advertised as a “chairwoman” of the charity’s fundraisers over the past several years. The spending by a charity she is associated with at her family’s businesses mirrors practices at Donald Trump’s now-shuttered Trump Foundation and Eric Trump’s Eric Trump Foundation, which also spent donor money at Trump properties.
The self-dealing by the Trump Foundation was so egregious that New York state Attorney General Letitia James cited it as the reason the charity could no longer operate.
Donald Trump over the course of his presidency funneled $8.5 million of Republican donor money into his own cash registers by directing spending by the entities he controlled, including the Republican National Committee, toward his own businesses. He similarly directed several million taxpayer dollars into his own properties by insisting on spending his frequent golf vacations there, thereby forcing Secret Service and other support staff to spend money at them, as well.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.