By David Z. Morris
September 17, 2017

It’s a minor Washington tradition that unused funds from presidential inauguration events are donated to charity. But nearly eight months after Donald Trump’s swearing-in celebration, no donations have been made from its record-breaking inaugural fund, and where the money went is mysterious.

As reported by the Associated Press, Tom Barrack, the chairman of the Trump Inaugural Committee, has promised that donation plans will be revealed in November, and that the donations will “exceed any previous inauguration.” But managers of previous presidents’ inaugurations told the AP that they had mostly wrapped up their finances and begun donating leftover funds within three months of the event.

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The underlying cause of the delay appears to be a chaotic, last-minute planning process that left the committee’s finances in disarray. An event-planning professional told the AP that the Trump camp “blew out their budgets,” in part because planning started late and relied on inexperienced staff, and also because of a desire for TV-ready production values.

The result, in the case of Trump’s inaugural concert, was an event that cost 10 times as much as a similar event for George W. Bush’s inauguration — a reported $25 million, compared to $2.5 million for Bush.

The Trump inaugural committee raised an unprecedented amount of money, in part by removing caps on individual donations. Both individual power players and major corporate donors contributed to what became a $107 million fund, more than twice the size of the Obama inaugural fund.

If Barrack fulfills his promised timeline, we’ll find out how much was left over in November. But the situation is already somewhat reminiscent of instances in which Trump’s critics have accused him of misusing funds intended for charity. That has included using funds from his foundation to pay for a portrait of himself, and to pay legal settlements for his for-profit business.

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