President Trump's inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm reportedly started by an adviser to first lady Melania Trump, according to tax filings released Thursday.
The inaugural committee raised a record $106.7 million for the inauguration, and until Thursday, it was a mystery how those funds were spent. The payment to the firm linked to Trump's adviser was one-quarter of the total $104 million expenses spent by the committee, which includes $5 million of donations to charity.
The payment to WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, Calif., appears to be one of the largest expenses, totaling $25,843,509 for "event production services."
WIS Media Partners was started by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, according to the New York Times. First lady spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Wolkoff, a former Vogue employee who helped organize the Met Gala for Anna Wintour, is an adviser to the first lady.
Grisham said Melania Trump was not involved with the presidential inauguration committee and did not know how its funds were spent.
"Stephanie Wolkoff is a special government employee with the Office of the First Lady," Grisham wrote in an email. "She volunteers her time and receives no salary for her efforts."
Little information is available about the company itself. A filing with the California Secretary of State's office shows it was incorporated in December 2016.
The address provided for the company shows that it appears to be based at the Silicon Beach Lofts, which purports to be located in an area with hundreds of tech startups.
The inaugural committee has about $2.7 million left, and those funds will be donated to charity, it said.
"The day of the 58th presidential inauguration, as well as the more than 20 events surrounding it, was conceived, planned, financed, staffed and executed in 69 days," committee chairman Thomas Barrack said in a statement. "And it was executed in elegance and seamless excellence without incident or interruption, befitting the legacy and tradition that has preceded us."
The inaugural committee noted that the funds it raised were from private sources and no taxpayer funds were used for any inaugural committee activities.
The committee also spent $25 million on "event production services" provided by Hargrove Inc., an event planning company based in Maryland.
Other expenses include $4.6 million in salaries, compensation and other employee benefits. But of the top officials of the committee, only CEO Sara Armstrong received compensation, according to the filing: a mere $23,690.
It also spent nearly $9.4 million on travel, about $500,000 on legal fees and about $560,000 on promotional gifts.
Much of the 116-page filing shows the private contribution amounts made to the committee, which included several $1 million contributions. Some of the in-kind donations include a musical performance listed at $729,000 and vehicle expenses listed at $298,000.