WASHINGTON ― In between entertaining the prime minister of Japan and handling a national security emergency in public view, President Donald Trump decided to crash a wedding being held at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Saturday. It wasn’t just any wedding though: The groom is the son of a donor who gave $100,000 to super PACs supporting Trump’s election in 2016.
On his second straight weekend visiting his south Florida club since taking office, Trump popped into the wedding of Carl Lindner IV and Vanessa Jane Falk to give his blessing. He dragged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe along with him. “I said, come on Shinzo, let’s go over and say hello,” Trump said in a video of an impromptu toast he gave to the bride and groom.
Carl Lindner III, the groom’s father and the co-CEO of American Financial Group, is a major Republican Party donor who backed Trump’s general election campaign through two super PACs. He gave $50,000 to Make America Number 1 and $50,000 to Future45. Both groups spent millions largely on negative advertising targeting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In addition, the groom’s grandmother, Edyth Lindner, and uncle, Craig Lindner Jr., each donated $50,000 to Future45 to support Trump’s election. American Financial Group, Lindner’s Cincinnati-based insurance company, also donated $300,000 to the Cleveland Host Committee for the 2016 Republican National Convention.
In total, Lindner, his family and his company donated $500,000 to support Trump’s nomination and election as president of the United States. This doesn’t include the amount Lindner and his family paid directly into Trump’s pocket by holding a wedding at a venue owned by the president.
“I know both families very, very well,” Trump told the wedding party at Mar-a-Lago. “They’ve been members of this club for a long time. They’ve paid me a fortune.”
The groom’s father, the donor, can be seen next to his son and Trump in one video.
Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago as a weekend presidential getaway has drawn criticism for multiple reasons. The federal government must foot large bills that go directly into Trump’s pocket to cover security and lodging. Since the club is private property, press can and has been restricted from it in ways not allowed at the White House. The club doubled its membership fees in January from $100,000 to $200,000. As for new and existing members, their names are not disclosed ― allowing anyone with $200,000 to get anonymous access to the president.
Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) have called on Trump to release the Mar-a-Lago membership list to show the public who is directly paying him to get special access at this private club.
Adam Smith, communications director for the campaign finance reform group Every Voice, criticized the president for doing exactly what he ran against in 2016. “It’s the exact kind of thing that Trump and the Republicans would have gone crazy about if Hillary had done it.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump and the Republican Party repeatedly attacked Clinton for her connections to donors to the Clinton Foundation. In particular, Trump seized upon an Associated Press story that some donors either did meet with Clinton while she was secretary of state or attempted to set up meetings but failed.
“It is now clear that the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history,” Trump said at the time. “We’ve now learned that a majority of the non-government people she met with as secretary of state gave money to the corrupt Clinton Foundation.”
He added, “It was wrong then, and it is wrong now ― and the foundation must be shut down immediately.”
Trump’s big super PAC donors have already reaped rewards from his administration. Not only did the president pop into Lindner’s son’s wedding, but he also hosted billionaire casino oligarch Sheldon Adelson for a private dinner at the White House and nominated billionaire Joe Ricketts’ son, Todd Ricketts, as deputy commerce secretary. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated $25 million to support Trump through Future45, while Ricketts gave $1 million to the same group.
“It’s another example that his big promise to ‘drain the swamp’ was just an act,” Smith said.