Former president Donald Trump’s leadership PAC gave $650,000 to the Smithsonian Institution to pay for portraits of himself and former first lady Melania Trump, financial documents show.
Save America paid the money to the museum on July 14, according to a filing Saturday night with the Federal Election Commission.
Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian, said the museum”s National Portrait Gallery solicits private donations to pay for all the portraits of all the presidents, and that Save America’s donation is “accompanied by one additional private donation.”
The portrait gallery raised $750,000 from nearly 300 donors to pay for portraits of former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, St. Thomas said. She also pointed to a list of dozens of donors who contributed to portraits of former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.
“Two artists have been commissioned. One for each portrait,” St. Thomas said. “The names will be released closer to the reveal of the paintings as is the museum’s tradition. The funds support the artists’ fees, shipping, framing, installation and events.”
“The creation of the portraits is underway,” she said. “The timing of the artworks’ reveal not determined yet.”
The donation was first reported by Business Insider.
$60,000 in payments:Trump PAC formed to push debunked voter fraud claims paid $60K to Melania Trump’s fashion designer
Save America is a leadership PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission that has received money from fundraising off of false claims of a stolen 2020 election.
The PAC has spent money on lawyers connected to Trump and his inner circle, donated to candidates who are Trump’s allies, and paid $60,000 to Melania Trump’s longtime fashion designer.
Most recently, a fundraising vehicle tied to Save America has been seeking to raise money off of the FBI’s search of Trump’s estate in Mar-a-Lago.
Michael Kang, a law professor at Northwestern University who specializes in campaign finance, said the donation to the Smithsonian “certainly” raises an ethical concern.
“It’s hard to see what commissioning of the portrait has to do with fundraising or advancement of fellow candidates in the Republican Party,” Kang said.
However, Kang said the Federal Election Commission is so gridlocked due to politics that practitioners “do what the law permits in their view, and sometimes that allows for quite a lot.”
Adav Noti, the vice president and legal director of the Campaign Legal Center, said federal committees, including leadership PACs like Save America, are allowed to give money to charity.
The Federal Election Commission would only be interested in looking at whether the charity in question were some sort of front for the candidate.
“If not, “that’d pretty much be the end of the inquiry,” he said.
More:Trump committee raised millions to fight election fraud before Jan. 6. Here’s how that money was spent.