Donald Trump’s political fundraising vehicle has taken the unusual step of paying $650,000 to commission two official portraits of the former president and his wife that will hang in Washington’s prestigious National Portrait Gallery.
The Save America PAC made the donation on July 14, according to public records and the Smithsonian, in an arrangement the museum said was unprecedented in recent presidential history. Another unnamed donor provided a further $100,000.
The Washington-based Smithsonian always commissions portraits of departing presidents to hang in the National Portrait Gallery but normally raises funds from private donors to cover the cost.
This is the first time in recent memory an organisation connected with a former president has helped fund the portraits, the Smithsonian said. Neither Barack Obama, George W Bush nor their political fundraising arms were involved in funding their paintings, the museum added.
The Smithsonian said: “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.
“Two artists have been commissioned, one for each portrait. The names will be released closer to the reveal of the paintings. The funds support the artists’ fees, shipping, framing, installation and events.”
A representative for Donald Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
The Smithsonian’s presidential portraits have a unique status in American political life. Every departing president has been invited to choose an artist to paint a picture of themselves to hang in the America’s Presidents exhibition — the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House.
While most presidents have chosen relatively conservative artists and traditional poses, Obama made waves when he chose Kehinde Wiley to paint him against a backdrop of vivid green leaves and multicoloured flowers.
The museum would not say whom the Trumps had commissioned to paint their portraits or when the paintings would be finished.
Unlike most former presidents, Trump has continued to fundraise after leaving office as he weighs another bid for the White House.
Trump’s affiliated PACs — including Save America — raised $17mn in the second quarter of the year, down from $23mn in the first quarter, and some observers have interpreted the slowdown as a sign that Republican donors are starting to take a serious look at other candidates.
But the Save America committee is still sitting on almost $100mn, according to its latest public filings, showing Trump’s enduring popularity with the Republican base.
It has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars donating to groups supporting Trump-endorsed candidates, including Harriet Hageman in Wyoming and David Perdue in Georgia. Hageman recently defeated Liz Cheney to be the Republican candidate for Congress from Wyoming, while Perdue lost his bid to unseat Brian Kemp as the party’s nominee for Georgia governor.
Save America has also made donations less focused on winning elections, such as $1mn each last year for two rightwing non-profit groups, one led by Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
According to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission, the donation to the Smithsonian was the single largest contribution made by Save America last month, representing about 16 per cent of its overall spending.
There is no restriction on PACs making charitable contributions, according to the FEC, though individual campaigns are not allowed to make charitable contributions that personally benefit the candidate. The FEC had recommended that Congress extend the campaign restrictions to all PACs last year, but Congress has yet to adopt the legislation.
Image and article originally from www.ft.com. Read the original article here.