Donald Trump’s political action committee donated $650,000 to the Smithsonian Institution last month to help underwrite portraits of the former President and former first lady Melania Trump at the National Portrait Gallery, according to Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian.
The donation from Trump’s Save America leadership PAC marks the first time that funds have come from a political action committee since the institution began raising private funds for presidential portraits – a practice that started with the portraits associated with former President George H. W. Bush, St. Thomas said.
Trump’s PAC disclosed the $650,000 “charitable contribution” made on July 14 in its monthly filing Saturday with the Federal Election Commission. A Trump spokesman did not respond to an inquiry about the donation earlier Monday.
St. Thomas said another private donation of $100,000 also is helping to pay costs associated with the portraits. The funds, totaling $750,000, will go to artists’ fees, shipping, framing, installation and events.
Two artists have been commissioned to complete the portraits, and the work is underway, she said. The artists’ names will be disclosed closer to the unveiling of the paintings. That date has not yet been decided, she added.
Trump has been a relentless fundraiser since leaving office – bombarding his supporters with emails and text messages. He started August with more than $99 million in cash reserves in Save America, his main fundraising vehicle, the new filings show.
Leadership PACs like Save America are generally established to support other candidates, but the rules on their spending are more relaxed than those for a presidential campaign committee, allowing donors’ money to be funneled to personal uses.
Team Trump has seized on this month’s FBI search at his waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to send text messages to donors, claiming he’s being “politically persecuted” and urging them to “stand” with him against a “corrupt” and “Radical Left.”
It appears to have paid off.
Donations to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million a day for at least two days following the FBI search of his property, a source familiar with the figures told CNN’s Kaitlin Collins recently. That fundraising surge was first reported by The Washington Post. It has not been reflected yet in Trump’s public filings with election regulators.
Former President Barack Obama’s portrait, painted by Kehinde Wiley, was underwritten by dozens of donors, as disclosed on the Smithsonian’s website. They include celebrities such as director Steven Spielberg and musician John Legend.