Former President Donald Trump used his donors to pay a number of vanity fees, including millions of dollars in his own businesses, private flights, tens of thousands of dollars in consultancy fees for the fashion designer high-end Melania Trump, and countless legal disputes.
Now his supporters are paying for his official presidential portrait at a price of $650,000.
In a Federal Election Commission filing last weekend, Trump’s leadership PAC Save America flagged 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 deposed ex-president and his wife in their presidential portraits, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.
“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. “Save America’s donation of $650,000 is accompanied by an additional private donation. This is specifically for portraits of former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump.
The spokesperson added that the artists have already been commissioned and that “the creation of the portraits is in progress”. The artists will be named closer to the unveiling, “as per museum tradition.”
The Trump PAC donation, the spokesperson said, will be used to pay for artists’ fees, as well as “shipping, framing, installation and events.”
The spokesperson said the museum could not name the additional private donor without their permission, but noted that it came from “a family, not a foundation or a corporation and not a a famous family.
“This is considerably less than the amount contributed by his PAC supporters,” the spokesperson noted.
People around Trump who spoke to The Daily Beast about the portrait said it was not at the top of the former president’s mind and was not brought up in conversations with aides and advisers. respective.
But, those still circling in Trump’s orbit say the upcoming portrait will have specific requirements, citing the former president’s fixation on technicalities.
One possible point of Trump’s fixation will likely include “color saturation” and “lighting,” according to a former Trump White House aide.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on this story.
This PAC contribution also bumps the price above the $500,000 total price 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, an artist herself. However, unlike the Trump PAC contribution, these donors chose to make the donation.
Although it’s been common for presidents in recent years to have donors fund their portraits, Trump has a history of using other people’s money to buy artist renderings of himself. In a famous case, Trump once 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., repaid the money as part of the family’s 2018 settlement with New York State.
Portraits of the Obamas made headlines, attracting political and artistic attention. The first black president and first lady were the first occupants of the White House to choose black painters to paint their portraits for the National Portrait Gallery series, and they took the opportunity to make a broader point about the state from the country.
The paintings have garnered much critical praise, as well as some controversy. But the portraits proved hugely popular, and following their unveiling in 2018, a national tour was extended until October this year.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery displays official portraits of all past presidents. Currently, the gallery features a photo of Trump, taken by Pari Dukovic for Time in 2019.
According to the new filing, Save America frontman Trump’s PAC has $99.1 million. The group has come under scrutiny from House investigators Jan. 6, who have accused Trump and his campaign of defrauding donors of $250 million for false promises to cancel the 2020 election results.