Trump inaugural committee paid $26 million to friend of first lady Melania Trump

  • Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a New York party planner and friend of first lady Melania Trump, was paid $26 million by the Trump inaugural committee.
  • The payment was disclosed in an IRS form that revealed the committee spent more than $90 million on events surrounding the 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump.
  • The committee gave $5 million to charity, out of a total $106 million raised.

The committee responsible for organizing President Donald Trump's inaugural events paid a friend of first lady Melania Trump $26 million, part of more than $90 million the group spent on the festivities, according to a tax form filed to the IRS earlier this month and released Thursday.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a New York society events planner, also serves as a senior advisor to the first lady, although she is not paid for her White House work. The inaugural committee reported paying $26 million to WIS Media Partners, a limited liability company that Wolkoff set up in late 2016.

The committee also paid $25 million to another event planning firm, Hargrove Inc., a Maryland-based company that produces trade shows and conventions. Other top vendors were Texas-based political consulting firm Cavalier Consulting, which made $4 million; New York party planner David Monn, who was paid $2.7 million; and Production Resources Group, a company that designs event scenery, which also received $2.7 million.

Event planners typically pay most of their fees to subcontractors such as florists, caterers and venues. A committee source told The New York Times that Wolkoff's share of her $26 million fee was $1.62 million.

A total of $5 million was given to charities, including $1 million dollars each to the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and Samaritan's Purse, intended to aid in relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey. A donation of $1.75 million was given to groups that preserve and refurbish the White House and the Naval Observatory, the vice president's official residence. The Smithsonian Institution received the remaining $250,000.

Trump's inaugural committee reported having raised $106 million, or twice what the inaugural committee for President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration raised. Obama limited individual donations to $50,000, and corporate contributions to $250,000. Trump imposed no such limits.

"This inauguration represented the hallmark of American democracy in the unique and cherished American tradition of a peaceful transfer of power," Tom Barrack, chairman of the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a statement Thursday. He said the inaugural committee planned and executed more than 20 separate events surrounding Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration.

Barrack, a longtime friend of Donald Trump's, has been mentioned recently as a possible replacement for White House chief of staff John Kelly.

The committee's latest tax filing contains a long list of the donations made to the inaugural committee, but does not include the names of the donors. Nonprofits are not legally required to disclose their donors.

These names were disclosed, however, in filings submitted to the Federal Election Commission in 2017. That list revealed that scores of individuals and corporations gave $1 million or more to the committee, including a $5 million donation from Republican mega-donor and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

The committee also received an in-kind donation of $729,217 from casino and hotel company Wynn Resorts. The founder and CEO of the company, Steve Wynn,resigned from his company earlier this month following allegations of sexual misconduct. Wynn also quit his post as finance chief for the Republican National Committee.

A Wynn Resorts spokesman confirmed to CNBC that the donation was for a musical performance by the band Alabama and the Las Vegas act "Showstoppers." The concert was part of an exclusive Chairman's Global Dinner, held on the Tuesday before the inauguration for fewer than 200 guests. Trump praised Alabama's performance on Twitter the following day.

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