But who knows, really. The forms — and he’s been filing these as required by law since he was still just a candidate — are based on his own valuations, they aren’t subject to any kind of audit, and they’re listed in extremely broad ranges.
He’s said the public knows everything it needs to because of the disclosures, which list his holdings and income sources all the way down to his Screen Actors Guild pension. But these documents deal in ranges of income, assets and debt. And, more problematically, the documents Trump filed with OGE contain figures that are self-reported — and that apparently treat Trump’s business revenues as his own personal income.
News organizations, including CNN, report on the disclosures because they provide some window into what Trump owns, and they’re the best we’ve got. But both sets of documents together — the OGE filings and a tax return — would offer a more complete snapshot of his wealth.
How much did Trump personally make last year?
The OGE gives filers a lot of leeway on what they can report in the “income” column on the financial disclosure documents. That’s because the OGE doesn’t focus on the income amount when making a determination on whether there’s a conflict of interest — a dollar of income would present the same amount of conflict as $1 million.
The President claimed $434 million in “income” — again, the word the form uses — but while some of that came from interest, book royalties and that SAG pension, the majority of what he listed appears to be revenue associated with the Trump Organization’s many business ventures.
Trump appears to be treating himself more as a business in the documents than as an individual. It’s not clear what his own personal stake is in the money he’s claiming as income from his golf courses, hotels and other interests. And we don’t really know what the listed values represent — whether Trump reported as “income” what a given business took in as revenue, or if it’s the total that actually flowed to him after expenses. We just don’t know.
“This is a president you have to doubt everything he says. And this is a president who has proven the need for stronger laws applying to the president,” said Jordan Libowitz, the spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group.
A peek inside Trump’s biggest revenue-generator
One example worth looking at, however, is the Trump National Doral golf course in Miami, which has been Trump’s top moneymaker — way above his other properties, like his Mar-a-Lago resort.
But the company told Miami authorities that net operating income — profit, that is — fell from $13.8 million to $4.3 million, according to the Post. That’s a clear indication that what Trump himself took home from Doral — his personal income — was much less than the amount he listed as “income” on his OGE form.
Trump’s enormous loans and his obsession with interest rates
Libowitz said that debt should be taken into account when Trump goes off on the Fed about interest rates. Trump’s variable rate loans are tied to Libor and not the Fed funds rate, but when the Fed lowers rates, Libor tends to go down as well.
“He owes a lot of money,” said Libowitz. “We don’t know exactly how much, but it’s a huge amount. And when you own that much, there are questions about how you can be influenced.”
How everyone else treats disclosures
Libowitz said Congress should fix that and expand the law to apply to the President and vice president as well — something Democrats pushed as part of an ethics and election reform proposal earlier this year, but which has not gotten a vote in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear it won’t while he’s around.
Neither will Trump willingly give up his tax returns. And maybe, ultimately, voters in 2020 won’t mind. We’ll know if voters care about these issues long before we have an accurate picture Trump’s wealth.