With business entanglements with almost two dozen countries across the globe, real-estate-businessman-turned President Donald Trump is now raising millions from the real estate industry — a top ally that helped bankroll his 2016 presidential bid.
Industry affiliates injected $4.3 million into his campaign in 2016 — the largest amount among all industries excluding retirees — and spent a total of $11.2 million to elect Trump. Today, real estate remains the top industry to fund Trump’s reelection endeavor, giving his campaign and outside spending groups $8.5 million thus far to help him win a second term. Democratic candidates, in comparison, received less from real estate developers, totaling $5.4 million.
As Trump continues to reap profits from his foreign and domestic property investments, his widespread business interests invited criticism from Democrats and ethics watchdogs. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a D.C.-based nonprofit group, counted more than 2,500 conflicts of interest linked to Trump properties and business dealings.
But Trump remains popular within the real estate industry. His campaign committee has attracted $1.9 million from industry affiliates — more than any of his presidential opponents — including $495,600 from those who maxed out to him, most of whom hold executive positions at real estate businesses.
Ross Perot Jr., chairman of real estate company Hillwood Development, maxed out to the Trump campaign and gave $77,200 to Republican Party committees. Perot’s father, billionaire Ross Perot, whose political style some say Trump mirrors, was a third-party presidential candidate in both 1992 and 1996. Hillwood affiliates gave $338,300 to Republican candidates and more than $1 million to conservative outside groups ahead of the 2020 election.
Martin Selig, a Seattle billionaire who backed out of co-hosting a fundraiser for Trump in 2016, disavowed his support for the presidential candidate at the time, the Seattle Times reported. The real estate developer has since flipped his position, giving $5,600 in April to Trump’s 2020 campaign.
Co-founder of WSJ properties Boyd Smith and his wife Jill Smith combined to give Trump’s campaign $11,200. The company’s affiliates have given $467,708 to Republicans throughout the election cycle thus far. The couple also shelled out $349,400 to the Republican National Committee.
Also hitting the limit giving to Trump is Tim Barton, CEO of the Dallas-based JMJ Development. Barton’s company was the developer and brand manager for Ivanka Trump’s real estate projects in 2008.
Petroleum businessmen Dan and Farris Wilks, formerly Ted Cruz supporters, also maxed out to Trump this year. The oil moguls, also the owners of the real estate company Wilks Ranch Brokers, combined to give $17,800 to the RNC.
Allen Alevy, founder of California-based Westland Real Estate Group, gave $11,200 to the Trump campaign, exceeding the contribution limit under the law. The campaign has not returned the exceeded amount.
Others are spending big supporting pro-Trump outside spending groups. Geoffrey Palmer, owner of California real estate firm G.H. Palmer Associates, delivered $2 million this year to the pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action. He has given $6 million to the group support Trump since 2016, making him the largest contributor to boost the president’s campaign. Palmer also gave $490,500 to Republican Party committees. The California billionaire has long supported Trump and Republican causes, doling out $4.1 million in 2018 and $5.2 million in 2016 to conservative groups, including $5 million to pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now to fuel Trump’s campaign.
The Los-Angeles businessman also held a fundraiser at his Beverly Hills mansion in September, featuring RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and the president himself. With tickets ranging from $1,000 to $100,000, the event raised an estimated $5 million for Trump’s joint fundraising committee, Trump Victory.
Republican Party committees have combined to rake in $14.5 million from real estate affiliates during the 2020 election cycle. Their Democratic counterparts, however, brought in only $5 million in real-estate related contributions.
The Democratic National Committee received $1.3 million from the industry. Marcus & Millichap, the nation’s biggest real estate brokerage firm, gave the DNC $200,000. The company’s chairman George Marcus has long been giving to liberal causes, shelling out $2.9 million this year to liberal groups, Democratic Party committees and candidate campaigns.
Democratic presidential hopefuls aren’t getting much help from the industry. The most popular Democrat among real estate developers — former Vice President Joe Biden — received $950,353, including $620,750 worth of maximum contributions. Stephen Siegel, chairman of global brokerage at the real estate giant CBRE Group, delivered $5,600 to Biden’s campaign. His wife and daughter, Cassandra and Wendy Siegel, gave the campaign an additional $5,600 in total.
Chairman of CBRE Group, Robert Wislow, and his wife Susie Wislow, also combined to give Biden $5,600. The Chicago-based businessman hosted a fundraiser in the Windy City for Biden in June, with tickets going for $2,800 each, CNBC reported.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a close second to Biden in fundraising from the real estate industry, receiving a total of $920,001. Larry Ackman, father of Pershing Square Foundation CEO Bill Ackman, gave Buttgieg $3,000 ahead of 2020. The businessman also gave Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) $2,800.