Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used more than $50,000 in campaign donations to buy thousands of copies of his own book at retail cost in order to use them as gifts at the Republican National Convention.
The Daily Beast reported that on May 10, the Trump campaign paid Barnes & Noble $55,055 for up to 5,000 copies of “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again,” a book written by Trump and published in 2015. But because campaign donations were used to buy the book, which could eventually add up to royalties paid to Trump, the transaction might have been illegal.
“It’s fine for a candidate’s book to be purchased by his committee, but it’s impermissible to receive royalties from the publisher,” Paul Ryan of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center (and no relation to House Speaker Paul Ryan), told The Daily Beast. “That amounts to an illegal conversion of campaign funds to personal use. There’s a well-established precedent from the FEC that funds from the campaign account can’t end up in your own pocket.”
Ryan added: “It may be the case for a candidate to instead donate those royalties to charity -- that might be a permissible arrangement. But the bottom line is, no money of this $55,000 from the book can end up in Donald Trump’s pocket without violating federal law.”
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But Trump has already claimed numerous times that proceeds from the book will go to charity.
During a campaign stop in Iowa in October 2015, only days before the book was published, Trump said the book profits would go to charity.
“With everything else I’m writing books. This was the last thing. But it was a lot of money that’s going to go to charity, and frankly, I think the title is amazing,” Trump said, according to Politico.
And on Oct. 7, 2015, Dan Scavino, Trump's director of social media, also tweeted that the book's proceeds would go to charity.
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But Trump's claims of charity donations have been scrutinized by reporters who haven't seen proof of giving.
Politico reported in June that “Crippled America” has generated between $1 million and $5 million in royalties for Trump, but a campaign spokesperson did not respond to questions about how much of it has actually gone to charity.