September 24, 2020

Trump’s Tulsa Rally Drew Sparse Crowd, but It Cost $2.2 Million

President Trump has held only one campaign rally since the pandemic swept across the country in March. It not only failed to fill the arena in Tulsa, Okla., it was also very expensive.

New campaign filings submitted Monday afternoon showed that Mr. Trump’s campaign paid more than $2.2 million in event, facility and audio visual costs in June — a month where the Tulsa event was his campaign’s only major public-facing event.

Mr. Trump, whose spirits have long been buoyed by his rallies, had pushed a chance to speak before a cheering and packed crowd but the event, held as fears of the coronavirus were increasing, ultimately left much of the 19,000-person arena unfilled. The sparse crowd helped accelerate the demotion of his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who had said the campaign fielded one million ticket requests.

The new filings show just how much Mr. Trump’s campaign paid to rent the arena itself: $537,705.44 in “facility rental” payments to the BOK Center.

But that fee was just the start.

The campaign then paid nearly $1 million in “event staging” fees between June 16 and the end of the month to eight different companies. The most went to Arcus Group, LLC, which received $673,906 in two payments for “event staging,” one a few days before the rally and another a few days after.

The campaign similarly made two payments totaling more than $426,000 to LMG, LLC, for “audio visual services,” right before and after the rally.

The payments in the campaign filings do not specifically list that they were for Mr. Trump’s Tulsa rally but he held no other major, political event for the public last month.

The Trump campaign declined to comment.

Expecting an overflow crowd, the Trump campaign had paid to set up an outdoor stage for Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to speak at. Those plans were scrapped when the crowd did not materialize.

The campaign reported another $148,981.25 for “event supplies” to AW Medical Supplies Inc., whose website says “our goal is to provide our customers with the vital supplies needed for an everyday basis, and especially in a time of crisis.” The company’s photo gallery features pictures of medical masks.

The Trump campaign offered masks to attendees and did temperature checks of those who entered, but mask-wearing inside the arena was not mandatory, and many declined to wear the protective equipment.

There were some extras among the costs: $80,500 to a Nashville-based company called EC Enterprises Inc., for “event entertainment,” a $30,449.30 payment to Fizz-O Water Company in Tulsa for beverages and a $15,000 payment for “parking” to a company located a few blocks from the BOK Center.

In addition, Mr. Trump’s campaign reported $267,405.75 in debt to the Department of Treasury in June for travel expenses. The campaign has to reimburse the government for the use of Air Force One on exclusively political trips; it was not clear if that debt was specifically related to the Tulsa trip.