Nonprofits that use the Palm Beach, Fla., club’s ballrooms for fundraisers have canceled events at the property in the past five days in response to President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about a “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Va.
In the last five days, since President Donald Trump said there were “fine people” among those marching in a “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., has been deserted by 14 charities that use its ballrooms for fundraisers, the Washington Post reported.
Those charities are key customers of Trump’s club: They can pay up to $275,000 for a single night. Now, this exodus of customers has highlighted an unexpected consequence of the president’s decision to keep ownership of his businesses while in the White House, the Post reported.
That decision has made Trump money, certainly. It allowed businesses and governments seeking the president’s favor to funnel him money through his D.C. hotel. But it has also driven away customers, by injecting Trump’s brand of politics into every business transaction—even a decision to rent a ballroom 990 miles south of Washington, the Post reported.
The story of charities deserting Mar-a-Lago has been breaking quickly over the last few days. Ten charities had planned galas or other large dinner events. These are the most important events of Palm Beach’s traditional winter “season,” when wealthy people from colder climes gather for five months of gala balls, golf, croquet lessons, sequins and pastel fabrics. Some of the biggest charity galas can attract 600 people or more, and raise more than $1.5 million in an evening, the Post reported.
Even before last week, Mar-a-Lago was facing an unusually slow season. It had only 16 galas on the schedule for next winter, as compared to 21 in the year before, and 26 in its best year, the Post reported.
Then, after the president’s comments about Charlottesville, there was a new wave of cancellations, beginning with the Cleveland Clinic Florida on August 17. Others canceling galas or dinner events include the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the American Cancer Society, American Friends of Magen David Adom, Leaders in Furthering Education, the Palm Beach Zoo, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer charity and the Autism Project of Palm Beach County, the Post reported.
In addition, four other charities said they would cancel luncheons planned at Mar-a-Lago. Those charities include the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, Morselife, Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper and Big Dog Ranch Rescue, the Post reported.
The Palm Beach Police Foundation—whose Policeman’s Ball is one of Mar-a-Lago’s largest events—is “continuing with its plans” to hold the gala there again in 2017, spokeswoman Maureen O’Sullivan said.
The same is true for the Palm Beach County Republican Party, which has held its annual Lincoln Day dinner at Mar-a-Lago since 2013. “We have no plans to switch venues,” the party’s chairman, Michael Barnett, said.
The good news for Trump’s club is that these two events are among Mar-a-Lago’s highest-paying event customers. The police foundation paid $276,000 to Trump’s club for rent, food and beverages at one recent gala, according to tax records. The Palm Beach County Republican Party pays about $145,000 for its dinner, Barnett said.
Officials at the Trump Organization did not respond to a question about how much revenue Mar-a-Lago will lose because of the canceled events. Many charities won’t reveal how much they paid. It’s also unclear whether the charities that had already paid deposits are getting that money back, the Post reported.
The big gala events seem to bring in more than $100,000 per night each, according to a survey of charity leaders and tax documents. The luncheons can bring in anywhere from $24,000 to more than $80,000. Even these low-ball numbers yield an estimate of $1.1 million in revenue that Trump’s club could have expected from the 14 lost events, the Post reported
In recent years, Mar-a-Lago has run profits between $4 million and $8 million, according to documents the club filed in court in Florida.
In the last few days, at least three other charities have appeared to waver in their decision to hold an event at the president’s club. According to news reports, the Raymond F. Kravis Center, a performing-arts venue in West Palm Beach, said it is holding a board meeting to discuss moving its annual wine-auction dinner away from Mar-a-Lago. So was the Palm Beach Habilitation Center, which had planned a luncheon at the club, the Post reported.
In addition, the Unicorn Children’s Foundation, which had planned a luncheon at Mar-a-Lago, said it is also exploring other options. The final decision will be made at a board meeting on September 7, an official at that charity said.
Trump National Golf Club – Los Angeles has seen a decline in golf revenue, big outdoor weddings and charity golf tournaments. That course’s problems appear to have begun in the summer of 2015, after Trump attacked Mexican immigrants during the speech that announced his campaign, the Post reported.
So far, the president has made no comment on the situation, the Post reported.
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