GOP Senate Candidate Spent Thousands in Donor Funds on Strip Clubs, Luxury, and Mysterious Wire Transfers

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

At five in the morning one week after Republican Royce White lost his 2022 Minnesota congressional primary, his campaign shelled out more than $1,200 in donor funds to a vendor 1,800 miles away not typically associated with political expenses—an all-nude strip club in Miami, Florida, called “Gold Rush Cabaret.”

That is just one among dozens of outlandish but previously unreported payments that The Daily Beast has identified from White’s 2022 Federal Election Commission filings. Several campaign finance experts characterized some of the expenses as potentially illegal spending.

And, by White’s own admission, tens of thousands of dollars in expenses supported what he characterized as a campaign entourage that accompanied him—a retired ex-NBA player—during the 2022 season of Ice Cube’s “Big3” three-on-three professional basketball league—up to the primary and beyond.

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White’s campaign filings, however, seem to have gone overlooked for years as the outsider candidate fashioned a second insurgent bid for 2024. Today, White—star athlete, conspiracy theorist, activist, and purveyor of antisemitism—is one of several GOP hopefuls vying for Senate in Minnesota, where this week, the state Republican Party unexpectedly endorsed him in a landslide.


The strip club payment is just the tip of this iceberg.

The Daily Beast reviewed White’s 2022 primary campaign reports and found numerous items that boggled legal experts. The unusual expenses include a total of more than $100,000 in mysterious wire transfers and checks reported as paid to the campaign; hefty tabs at spicy nightspots; getaways at posh hotels in at least seven states; thousands of dollars in limousine services; unexplained cash withdrawals; eye-popping purchases from electronics, sporting goods, clothing, and musical instrument retailers; and the DribbleUp smart basketball training app that White himself admitted might be personal use.

“If the FEC wants to fine us, that’s completely fine, there are much bigger scams with political campaigns,” White told The Daily Beast on Thursday, emphasizing that he was happy to work with the agency on any questions.

Campaign finance experts weren’t so sanguine.

“We’re not talking about small stuff,” said Brendan Fischer, a specialist in campaign finance law and deputy director of Documented. “This takes us well outside the realm of FEC fines. This looks a lot like the kind of thing that people go to jail for.”

Fischer and other experts said that several payments appear to be violations of the prohibition on personal use—a potentially criminal charge that can carry prison time.

White, however, is no stranger to controversy.

A one-time NBA first-round pick turned Black Lives Matter protester turned right-wing Steve Bannon protege, White has drawn rebukes for antisemitic remarks, conspiracy theories, abortion hypocrisy, and profane language. But thanks in large part to Bannon’s backing, White, at age 33, landed the endorsement of the Minnesota Republican Party by a landslide last weekend, claiming more than two-thirds of the vote. The state will hold its primary in August, with the winner going on to face Democratic incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to President Donald Trump.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to President Donald Trump on May 25, 2023 in New York City.

David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Asked whether he was aware of the outrageous 2022 spending, Minnesota GOP chair David Hann told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that he was not in his office at the moment and could not comment, then hung up.


White’s old FEC reports seem to have flown under the radar, even as an overlooked 2022 personal spending scandal upended the political life of another Republican outsider, former Rep. George Santos (R-NY). White’s expenses now have campaign finance experts picking their jaws up off the floor—with some indicating that he may have outdone even Santos.

“In nearly a decade of reviewing FEC disclosures, I’ve never seen a mess quite like White’s disbursements,” Jordan Libowitz, vice president for communications at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told The Daily Beast.

Libowitz noted that most of the White campaign’s reports listed the campaign itself as the payment recipient, with the vendors only appearing in the description. Those disbursements, he observed, were improperly reported “in what appears to be a copy-and-paste job from a bank website.” For some expenses, however—including the wire transfers and checks—it is entirely unclear who the campaign paid.

Royce White.

Royce White of the Power at Comerica Center on July 8, 2022 in Frisco, Texas.

Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images for BIG3

Brendan Fischer, a specialist in campaign finance law and deputy executive director of Documented, told The Daily Beast that the spending patterns lend the appearance of illegal use “for a wide range of personal expenses.”

“Misusing campaign funds can be a serious criminal offense—many politicians have gone to jail for diverting donor funds to personal expenses,” Fischer noted. And while the campaign’s reports were difficult to decipher, he said, “A close read suggests an incredibly long list of illegal expenditures.”

He said that while some costs may be evaluated on an individual basis, others—like the nightclubs and clothing—appear to have clearly crossed the line.

While Fischer acknowledged that it “isn’t necessarily illegal to use campaign funds at a strip club”—for a fundraiser or other legitimate campaign event—White’s timing makes it difficult to explain.

“I’m struggling to see a campaign-related justification for spending thousands of dollars in campaign funds on Miami strip clubs, private car services, and hotel rooms in the weeks after losing a race in Minneapolis,” he said.

The Gold Rush Cabaret’s website bills the spot as a “full liquor and full nude” gentlemen’s club that features “whale rooms.” The campaign racked up that expense at 5 a.m. on Aug. 16, 2022, one week after White lost the Republican primary, according to FEC statements; he appears to have dropped another $1,060 in donor cash on a limo and car service the same day.

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Those weren’t the operation’s only big post-loss expenses.

The campaign also laid out tens of thousands after the primary on luxury lodging, car service, airline tickets, meals, and other costs across half a dozen states. In all, White’s campaign appears to have spent around $30,000 on hotels, many outside of the state where he was running.

Also concerning are the more than $100,000 in outgoing wire transfers and checks with no stated recipient or purpose. Those payments, all experts said—coupled with multiple unexplained cash withdrawals—raise concerns about whether White or staffers treated campaign donations like personal funds.

Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause and a campaign finance expert, agreed on the apparent personal use question. He also told The Daily Beast that the FEC “needs to do some digging and ask what those wire transfers and checks are for.”

“I can’t remember ever seeing line items like this before,” Scherb said.

Asked about the spending, White told The Daily Beast, “That’s all campaign stuff,” adding, “Every dollar was spent on the campaign for campaign reasons.”

Royce White.

Royce White at Credit Union 1 Arena on June 26, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images for BIG3


It’s not clear, however, how White’s claim squares with many of his campaign’s expenses, including more than $32,000 charged around the country after losing the primary—costs that, as White himself told The Daily Beast, are also connected to his tour with the “Big3” basketball league. He claimed that he was paying for aides to travel with him and, at least in part, film the games—video for what was already by then a zombie campaign.

In fact, much of White’s campaign spending overall lines up with the 2022 Big3 schedule, which saw play begin in Chicago in June, before moving to Dallas, then to Tampa and Atlanta for the playoffs and championship.

For instance, the campaign spent more than $4,300 on food and hotels in the Windy City in June, with several payments at the host stadium. When the Dallas tournament took up in mid-July, the campaign went on a Big D shopping spree, including $311 at a Macy’s and another $560 at Cavender’s Western Wear, which sells cowboy boots. The campaign also splashed out $1,560 at the FiveAm Theater, an “exclusive after hours entertainment venue” in Dallas, with another $960 the same night to INCrowd Life, a local party company.

One of the Dallas tournaments butted right up against the election, a fact underscored with an $870 payment to the Dallas Omni Hotel on primary day.

It would be an unorthodox campaign strategy, to say the least—using donor funds to support and apparently outfit an entourage documenting a professional sports tour hundreds of miles from the congressional district, where the primary was weeks away.

Libowitz and Fischer both acknowledged that some campaign and event costs can legitimately overlap, but emphasized that White’s case was so extreme that it raised the possibility of criminal charges.

This gets to the heart of the misuse of campaign funds,” Libowitz said. “Donors spend that money to help you get elected. They don’t think you’re going to spend $1,200 at a Florida strip club.”

Former NBA player Royce White.

Former NBA player Royce White speaks during a protest outside the Hennepin County Government Center on May 29, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The strip club, White reasoned, was a campaign expense because he’d done what he characterized as a campaign-related podcast in Florida around the time, adding, “I like the food there.”

The Gold Rush online menu’s most expensive item—a $25 appetizer platter—would require 48 orders to total $1,200.

Libowitz and Fischer both dismissed White’s claims that his post-primary spending was legit simply because he hadn’t closed his campaign—and, in theory, could have been keeping his options open—pointing to a host of restrictions on post-election raising and spending.

And as it turns out, on the very same podcast that White cited as justifying the Gold Rush expenses, he admitted that his campaign was over.

“Let’s get one thing straight. I just ran to become the U.S. congressman from our 5th Congressional District,” White said in the interview. “I lost in the primary by 1,000 votes.”

The podcast aired the same day the campaign reported the strip club payment.


Among the other potential violations the experts noted, the campaign appears to have used White’s brief 2022 bid to build out a wardrobe—with hundreds apiece to Heimie’s Haberdashery, K&G Fashion Superstore, New Balance (“shoe purchase for door knocking”), Lululemon, Nordstrom, Nike, Asos, Express, and Crocs.

“It is per se illegal to use campaign funds for personal clothing purchases, so the spending at Nike, New Balance, and Lululemon appear to be impermissible,” Fischer said, regardless of the “door knocking” explanation.

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White’s donors also appear to have footed thousands of dollars in costs for hobby and sports equipment, including more than $3,200 combined to musical instrument retailer Guitar Center, more than $2,500 at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and more than $700 at Sally Beauty stores in two states.

As for the wire transfers and checks, White said those payments went “to people who worked on the campaign,” but he wouldn’t elaborate and shifted the responsibility to his treasurer.

“If my treasurer didn’t have the names, that’s something we can reconcile,” he said.

The 2022 campaign treasurer was an attorney then with a well-known Minneapolis conservative firm, whose digital signature is on the reports. He resigned in July 2022, rejoined days later, then resigned again for good last August, but has since changed firms. He did not respond to The Daily Beast’s inquiries.

This fall, as White marshaled his Senate campaign—which has another treasurer—he provided a statement to the FEC sharing that he was now the 2022 campaign’s treasurer. He currently owes the FEC two late filings.

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