According to financial documents, former President Donald Trump’s leadership PAC donated $650,000 to the Smithsonian Institution to pay for portraits of himself and former First Lady Melania Trump.
According to a Federal Election Commission filing Saturday night, Save America paid the money to the museum on July 14.
According to USA Today, the Smithsonian’s top spokesperson, Linda St. Thomas, stated that the museum’s National Portrait Gallery solicits private donations to pay for all of the presidents’ portraits and that Save America’s donation is “accompanied by one additional private donation.”
According to St. Thomas, the portrait gallery received $750,000 from over 300 donations to pay for portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. She also mentioned dozens of donors who helped fund portraits of former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush.
“Two artists have been commissioned. One for each portrait,” St. Thomas said. “The names will be released closer to the reveal of the paintings as is the museum’s tradition. The funds support the artists’ fees, shipping, framing, installation, and events.”
“The creation of the portraits is underway,” she said. “The timing of the artworks’ reveal is not determined yet.”
The PAC has spent money on lawyers related to Trump and his inner circle, donated to candidates who are Trump’s allies and paid Melania Trump’s longtime fashion designer $60,000 in the past.
Most recently, a Save America-affiliated fundraising vehicle has tried to benefit from the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Michael Kang, a Northwestern University law professor who specializes in campaign finance, said the donation to the Smithsonian “certainly” raises ethical concerns.
“It’s hard to see what commissioning of the portrait has to do with fundraising or advancement of fellow candidates in the Republican Party,” Kang said.
However, Kang said the Federal Election Commission is so gridlocked due to politics that practitioners “do what the law permits in their view, and sometimes that allows for quite a lot.”
According to Adv Noti, vice president and legal director of the Campaign Legal Center, federal committees, including leadership PACs like Save America, are allowed to donate to charity.
The Federal Election Commission would only be concerned with whether the charity in question was a front for the candidate.
“If not, “that’d pretty much be the end of the inquiry,” he said.