Trump claims FEC filing demonstrates sky-high wealth, income

Form conflates personal income and company revenue, requires only vague valuations
By Ariel Stulberg | May 19, 2016 09:33AM

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has long said he’s worth $10 billion, and now claims a new conflict-of-interest disclosure filing proves it. It doesn’t.

Trump’s filing showed the businessman’s “tremendous cash flow” and was “the largest in the history of the F.E.C.” his campaign claimed in a news release, referring to the Federal Election Commission.

On the form, which requires all presidential candidates to disclose the sources of their income and the business entities they own, Trump claims an income of at least $615 million, according to the New York Times with large parts of his income stemming from his sale of the Miss Universe pageant and revenues from his many golf courses.

He reported assets of at least $1.5 billion, and liabilities of about $315 million, according to the Times.

But those numbers need to be taken with a hearty grain of salt.

The F.E.C. form, unlike Trump’s tax return – which the candidate has so far refused to release – is only designed to disclose potential conflicts of interest. Only income and revenue matter for that purpose, not business expenses, so the disclosure of those latter figures is optional, an F.E.C. official confirmed to The Real Deal.

In addition, incomes and company values on the form are given as wide ranges rather than specific figures, such $1 million to $5 million, with the highest range going to infinity (over $5 million, in the case of income).

Still, the forms are audited by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at the nonprofit Public Citizen, told TRD earlier this year that candidates are expected to “provide a reasonable estimate of the value [of their assets] and the source of that value.”

TRD analyzed Trump’s brand income – for which expenses aren’t an issue – using his previous disclosure filing in its April issue, finding he made between about $9 million and $36 million from his name between January 2014 and June 2015.

In 2013, TRD undertook a more thorough review of the mogul’s assets around the world.