Donald Trump has been canceling travel plans and appearances for most of the week in order to travel to El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio in the wake of the horrific mass shootings at both locations last weekend. But there is one event he is not going to miss: Trump will be flying into the Hamptons this Friday for a pair of very expensive local fundraisers. And one of them will be hosted at the home of Stephen Ross, the billionaire Hudson Yards developer who has been a staunch Republican contributor.
The Washington Post reports that the Friday luncheon in Southampton will take place at the home of Ross and his wife, jewelry designer Kara Ross. The invite shows that tickets are priced at $100,000 for a photo opportunity and lunch, and $250,000 for the package that includes a private roundtable discussion with the president.
That will be followed by a reception at the 17,000-square-foot Bridgehampton estate of fellow NY real estate developer Joe Farrell. Tickets for that event are priced at $5,600 per couple for the general reception, $11,200 per couple for the VIP reception and $35,000 per couple for a photo opportunity.
Other guests expected to attend the events include Don Trump Jr. and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jared Kushner.
You might be wondering how it is that donors can give so much money when they are only permitted to give a maximum of $5,600 per election cycle to an individual candidate. But the money raised at these fundraisers will go toward Trump Victory, a fundraising committee for both the Trump 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee. And donors can contribute as much as $710,000 to national parties.
Of course, Trump has previously pooh-poohed the influence of wealthy donors on candidates. On the campaign trail in 2015, he claimed he was too rich to be bought by lobbyists and donors. "So their lobbyists, their special interests and their donors will start calling President Bush, President Clinton, President Walker," he said at the time. "Pretty much whoever is president other than me. Other than me. And they'll say: 'You have to do it. They gave you a million dollars to your campaign.'"
While I’m beating my opponents in the polls, I’m also beating lobbyists, special interests & donors that are supporting them with billions.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2015
In addition to being the majority owner of Related Companies, which was responsible for Hudson Yards, and the Equinox Fitness Clubs (which owns Equinox, PURE Yoga, Blink Fitness, and SoulCycle), Ross also owns the Miami Dolphins, the Hard Rock Stadium, and the Time Warner Center (he recently listed his own apartment there for $75 million). Eater reported that through his company RSE Ventures, he's also invested in tons of restaurant businesses, including dessert shop Milk Bar, David Chang’s Momofuku, reservation service Resy, coffee shop Bluestone Lane, and fast-casual pizzeria &pizza.
According to Forbes, Ross is the 191st richest person in the world, with a net worth around $7.7 billion. According to Open Secrets, Ross was among the top 200 political donors in the country during the 2018 election cycle, giving more than $452,000 to political candidates and parties nationwide—with 93% of it going to Republicans.
Ross also has his own personal history with Trump: They were both investors in the ill-fated USFL, which was supposed to be a football league that competed with the NFL, during the 1980s. They both owned teams and ended up merging them, making them co-owners together briefly (the league was shutdown before the new team could play a game though). In an interview with Bloomberg in 2016, Ross praised Trump as “probably the world’s greatest promoter,” but said he was skeptical about his presidential ambitions.
Ross and Trump at a USFL press conference in 1985 (Marty Lederhandler/AP/Shutterstock)
Ross was also initially critical of Trump's handling of the NFL player protests, but he ended up reversing himself days later and crediting Trump for changing the framing of the national conversation. "I like Donald," he told the Daily News at the time. "I don’t support everything that he says. Overall, I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that. That’s how, I think, the country now is interpreting the kneeling issue." Ross added during that interview that he was still in communication with Trump and said he thinks the president "is concentrated on making the country better."