A lot of the news stories assume that Trump is enriching himself when his campaign pays his businesses for goods and services. For example:
“[The Trump campaign] paid more than $500,000 in August to companies the brash businessman owns, according to campaign finance reports released late Tuesday. The chief beneficiaries were Trump’s aviation company and his office headquarters in Manhattan: TAG Air was paid nearly $320,000 for operating the campaign jet and Trump Tower collected nearly $170,000 in rent for the month of August. Another $23,000 went to smaller Trump properties and businesses.”
It is possible that these transactions are slanted in favor of the Trump businesses (e.g. the campaign is paying too much), but this would presumably be taxable income to the Trump businesses and thus to Trump. Also, a lot of the campaign’s money comes from Trump himself. It is not clear why he would want to dip into the campaign till to generate taxable income for his businesses at above market prices and then turn around and put after-tax dollars into the campaign from his own pocket (note: I am assuming a lot here because without seeing his tax returns, nothing about his taxes can be verified).
But what if it is the other way around? What if some Trump businesses charge too little for goods and services they provide to the campaign? What if other Trump businesses are helping the campaign but don’t show up on campaign disclosure forms because they don’t charge the campaign anything at all? I don’t know if this is happening but if it is, it is happening with pre-tax dollars that are not disclosed as campaign contributions.
A lot of rich people would like to run for public office and deduct the cost of a campaign, but the tax code does not allow that. It is the same if you use your own business to support your campaign and reduce its taxable income in the process. There is a difference between a business entity’s deductible business expense and a non-deductible expense that is really a campaign contribution. And the latter should also be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.
I am all in favor of tax deductions and tax credits for campaign contributions -- but for small donors and for limited amounts ($100 or $200) -- not just for billionaires.