Newly released receipts reveal nearly a dozen trips to the president’s luxury hotel, part of $170,000 in out-of-state travel by the former Maine governor in recent years.
Former Gov. Paul LePage and his staff members paid for more than 40 rooms at Washington, D.C.’s Trump International Hotel during a two-year period, spending at least $22,000 in Maine taxpayer money at a business owned by the president’s family.
Documents recently obtained by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram show that the LePage administration paid anywhere from $362 to more than $1,100 a night for rooms at the luxury hotel during trips to meet with President Trump or his inner circle, attend White House events or talk to members of Congress. Receipts from those dozen trips also show the Republican governor or his administration spending hundreds of dollars on filet mignon or other expensive menu items at the restaurant in the Trump hotel. Those expenditures are likely to draw additional scrutiny from attorneys who have cited LePage’s previously disclosed stays at the D.C. hotel in a federal lawsuit alleging the president is improperly profiting from the business.
The spending levels at the Trump hotel were so high that they were flagged by a worker in the state controller’s office, who sought guidance on state regulations for reimbursing such expenditures.
“The reason I am asking is because the Governor and some of his staff are staying in Washington, D.C. pretty frequently at the Trump International Hotel and the room cost is WAY more than the allowed amount,” the worker wrote to Deputy Controller Shirley Browne in June 2017, following a particularly costly month. “He is not attending a conference of any type but is meeting with the President, testifying, meeting with lawmakers and others, etc. so the normal exemptions (to state spending limits) do not apply.”
DOCUMENTS RELEASED AFTER LEPAGE LEFT OFFICE
The email and Trump hotel receipts were among more than 2,000 pages of documents the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram obtained or reviewed under Freedom of Access Act requests for travel spending by the governor, his staff and security team in 2017-2018.
The newspaper submitted its initial request for the public records in March 2017 – amid a flurry of trips by LePage to the nation’s capital – and obtained a portion of the records for his security detail from the Department of Public Safety in June 2017.
But the former governor’s office failed to provide detailed travel records for LePage and his staff despite repeated requests from the newspaper over the course of 18 months. It was not until after LePage had left office – and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills was sworn in – that documents originally requested in March 2017 and subsequently were finally provided to the Press Herald.