At loggerheads with Congress over funding his signature border wall, president Donald Trump shut down large swaths of the federal government at midnight on Friday (Dec. 21). Roughly 800,000 federal employees are affected, many of whom will remain on furlough without pay if the shutdown continues.
But even as much of the federal government grinds to a halt, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort still needs tents for the winter party season—and taxpayers are footing at least $54,000 of the bill.
According to government spending data, Grimes Events & Party Tents Inc. of Delray Beach, Florida was paid $54,020 by the US Secret Service on December 19 for “TENT RENTAL FOR MAL.”
An employee named Honey who answered the phone at Grimes Events & Party Tents told Quartz, “We are providing tents for the Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party, yes.” The company later added the clarification that it is providing tents for security at the perimeter, not the main tent for the guests, and that the contract covers tent rentals for New Year’s Eve as well as other Mar-a-Lago events over the next five months.
The Secret Service uses tents for security purposes, often as holding areas for vehicles and VIPs.
Last year, the Secret Service spent $26,457.28 to rent lights, generators, tables and tents for the Mar-a-Lago New Year’s bash, according to Newsweek. Guests will pay $1,000 per person to attend the 2018 Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party, up from $750 last year and $575 the year before, according to published reports. Club members will pay $650 this year, up from $600 in 2017. Ticket prices do not include 20% gratuity and 7% tax, which boosts the price of a $1,000 ticket to $1,270.
Another noteworthy Secret Service expenditure, this one for $41,250 and paid to BSE Performance of Peoria, Arizona, is for “GENERATORS AND LIGHT TOWERS RENTAL FOR MAL.” It is not clear if the generators and light towers are specifically for the New Year’s Eve party; both were paid the same day. There are only two contracts related to Mar-a-Lago posted at the present time; both run through the end of May. Any others may not be made publicly available for weeks or even months to come.
It is not known whether Trump will in fact spend this year’s holidays at Mar-a-Lago. He remains in Washington, DC, at least for now. However, government records show the money for this year’s tents, lights, and generators has already been 100% obligated.
The Secret Service told Quartz previously that it “cannot discuss specifically nor in general terms the means, methods, resources, costs, or numbers we utilize to carry out our protective responsibilities.”
Recently, Quartz reported the Secret Service could spend more than $90,000 this winter on Florida golf cart rentals to shadow the president while he hits the links, bringing the agency’s total golf cart rental expenses to approximately $400,000 since Trump took office—an apparent modern record.