Trump Donors Pay $650,000 For Official Presidential Portrait

·4 min read
Win McNamee
Win McNamee

Former President Donald Trump has used his donors to pay for a number of vanity costs, including millions of dollars at his own businesses, private flights, tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees for Melania Trump’s high-end fashion designer, and an untold number of legal disputes.

Now his supporters are paying for his official presidential portrait at a cost of $650,000.

In a Federal Election Commission filing last weekend, Trump’s Save America leadership PAC reported the $650,000 “charitable contribution” to the Smithsonian Institution on July 14—a gift that, according to the museum, was “specifically” to pay for the cost of enshrining the twice impeached ex-president and his wife in their presidential portraits, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery. The contribution was first reported by Insider.

“All portraits of presidents commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery are paid for with private funds raised by the museum,” a Smithsonian spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “The Save America donation of $650,000 is accompanied by one additional private donation. It is specifically for the portraits of former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump.”

The spokesperson added that the artists have already been commissioned and “the creation of the portraits is underway.” The artists will be named closer to the unveiling, “as is the museum’s tradition.”

The Trump PAC donation, the spokesperson said, will go towards artist fees, along with “shipping, framing, installation, and events.”

The spokesperson said the museum could not give the additional private donor’s name without their permission, but noted that it was from “a family, not a foundation or corporation and not a famous family.”

“It is considerably less than the amount from his supporters’ contribution from the PAC,” the spokesperson noted.

Those around Trump who spoke to The Daily Beast about the portrait said it isn’t on the top of the former president’s mind and hasn't been brought up in conversations with respective aides and advisers.

But, those who continue to circle within Trump’s orbit say the upcoming portrait will have specific requirements, citing the former president’s fixation with technical details.

One of the possible points of Trump's fixation will likely include “color saturation” and “lighting,” according to a former Trump White House aide.

A Trump spokesman didn’t return The Daily Beast’s request for comment on this story.

That PAC contribution also pumps the price tag higher than the total $500,000 price tag for the Smithsonian portraits of former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

According to the National Portrait Gallery, the Obama portraits were funded by a handful of private donors, including director Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw, herself an artist. However, unlike with the Trump PAC contribution, these donors chose to make the gift.

While it has been common for presidents in recent years to have donors fund their portraits, Trump has a history of using other peoples’ money to purchase artists' renderings of himself. In one famous case, Trump used donations to his charity to bid $10,000 on a portrait of himself because no one else wanted it. His son Donald Trump Jr. reimbursed the money as part of the family’s 2018 settlement with the state of New York.

The Obamas’ portraits made headlines, drawing attention from both the political and art worlds. The first Black president and first lady were the first White House occupants to choose Black painters to make their portraits for the National Portrait Gallery series, and they took the opportunity to make a larger point about the state of the country.

The paintings drew widespread critical praise, as well as some controversy. But the portraits proved to be wildly popular, and following their 2018 unveiling went on a national tour that has been extended through October of this year.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery displays official portraits of all former presidents. Currently, the gallery features a photo of Trump, taken by Pari Dukovic for Time in 2019.

Trump’s Save America leadership PAC has $99.1 million on hand, according to the new filing. The group has come under scrutiny from Jan. 6 House investigators, who have accused Trump and his campaign of defrauding donors to the tune of $250 million over false promises to overturn the 2020 election results.

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