The charity Big Dog Ranch Rescue with connections to Lara Trump has reportedly spent as much as $1.9m at properties owned by former president Donald Trump and is spending $225,000 at Mar-A-Lago this weekend, totalling over $2m.
A permit filed with the town of Palm Beach, Florida shows Big Dog Ranch Rescue thinks it will spend approximately $225,000 at the private country club where the former commander-in-chief now lives, The Huffington Post reported.
However, the charity says the amount spent was “less than half” that amount.
Figures from the Internal Revenue Service show that the charity has spent as much as $1,883,160 on fundraising at Mar-a-Lago and at Mr Trump’s golf course in Jupiter, 18 miles north of the club.
Lara Trump, the wife of Eric Trump, was first listed as chairwoman for the charity events in 2018. The president of the charity Lauren Simmons was at the White House during the signing ceremony for a bill targeting animal cruelty in 2019.
Ms Simmons issued a statement on Friday praising the club as a venue: “The quality of service, beauty of the venue and excellent rate provided us as a nonprofit as well as the generosity of supporters who sell-out our event there every year allows us to rescue and home thousands of dogs. Our investment there and at the other venues mentioned in the article has netted more than $12 million over an eight-year period which allows us to continue our mission.”
The Huffington Post reported that spending by charities affiliated with family members at Trump properties like that of Big Dog Ranch Rescue is similar to the spending habits of other charities affiliated with the Trump family in the past.
In a statement to The Independent, Ms Simmons said: “The erroneous Huffington Post report that claimed Big Dog Ranch Rescue ‘funnelled’ ‘a quarter million dollars’ to Donald Trump ‘via his daughter-in-law’ is completely false and riddled with misinformation”.
“Huffington Post’s numbers regarding venue expenditures are totally inaccurate, 100 per cent false and misleading. This weekend’s fundraiser for Big Dog Ranch Rescue was one of our most successful, raising $1,400,000 over the two days”.
“The contract from The Mar-a-Lago Club is, and was for every year the fundraiser has been held, less than half of the misreported $225,000.00. The profitability of this event is unmatched by any other event we hold based on the venue, the cooperation of the club and the generosity of our donors. In fact, with a total expense of .14 cents per dollar raised, a cost substantially lower than the non-profit event average of .24 to .50 cents per dollar, we are actually able to allocate more of our donation dollars to rescue, heal and home dogs.
“Lara Trump has been a lifelong animal advocate and it was an honor to have her as our honorary chair. Lara has never received even ONE DOLLAR from Big Dog Ranch and gives her time for free, just as I do, to make a difference. She bought her own plane tickets for the event and then donated her own money at the fundraiser to help further our mission to save as many dogs as possible. Our events team selects our fundraising venues and we have been holding our fashion show at The Mar-a-Lago Club for eight years, prior to Lara’s participation which began in 2018.
“It makes me sad that these false narratives only undermine the great work we are doing to help dogs. To see how we use our donations simply Google “Big Dog Ranch Rescue” or visit BDRR.ORG for actual reports from nonpartisan real journalists who have been covering our work providing families in Texas with pet food when the freezing cold moved in, flying dogs from Puerto Rico after devastating natural storm disasters, rescuing dogs from China’s horrific meat trade, training and providing veterans with service dogs, and staying open for all the strays throughout the entire Covid crisis. The sad truth is the lies in this story will cost lives.”
The controversy surrounding the Trump Foundation , which is now closed, led New York Attorney General Letitia James to rule that their activities could not continue.
According to the office of the Attorney General: “Mr Trump repeatedly used Foundation money for his own personal, business, and political interests”.
Ms James said at the time in 2019: “The Trump Foundation has shut down, funds that were illegally misused are being restored, the president will be subject to ongoing supervision by my office, and the Trump children had to undergo compulsory training to ensure this type of illegal activity never takes place again.”
In October of last year, The Washington Post reported that Mr Trump had managed to direct millions of dollars from taxpayers and from political donations towards his own properties and businesses, totalling $8.1m.
The Independent has asked the Trump Organisation for comment.
On Friday former president Trump unexpectedly appeared at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue event at Mar-a-Lago and gave a short speech, in which he fuelled speculation that his daughter-in-law would run for the Senate.
This story was amended on 16 March to add a statement from Big Dog Ranch Rescue