Mar-a-Lago is Not the “Winter White House,” It’s a Major Conflict of Interest
WASHINGTON, February 12, 2017—In just three weeks since becoming president, Trump has taken two trips to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida. This presents a massive conflict of interest where the president is using his office to promote his for-profit business.
A number of journalists have called attention to this, including Judd Legum at Think Progress.
1. This tweet is so corrupt and also so shameless https://t.co/HgXJo9eY8L
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) February 12, 2017
Another critical voice has been Julie Hirschfeld Davis at the New York Times, who points out that while previous presidents have used a personal vacation home to host foreign leaders, Mar-a-Lago “is also a for-profit club that benefits his family business, from which he [Trump] has declined to divest.”
Trump personally benefits from the $200,000 initiation fee (which was raised from $100,000 since Trump became president), as well as the money members spend while at the club and the $14,000 in yearly dues charged to members.
Every time Donald Trump poses for cameras in his official role as president over or under his club’s logo, he is giving his for-profit business a free commercial, broadcast around the world on television, in print and online.
“We got 2 know each other very very well” Trump sez of Abe at Mar-a-Lago. Ignored my q re his confidence in Gen Flynn pic.twitter.com/pc1Z3Dqett
— Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) February 12, 2017
“The president, in going about his work, should be completely separate from his commercial interests,” said John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation to NBC News. “The concern here is that by hosting foreign leaders at his resort he is directly receiving money from a foreign government.”
Trump is hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this weekend at Mar-a-Lago, as a “gift” to the foreign leader and his wife. Meanwhile photographs of Trump and Abe at Trump’s club and golf course circle the globe, in what has been described as product placement.
“Hosting a foreign leader at the president’s business resort creates impossible sets of conflicts,” Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen said to Fortune Magazine. “If the president hadn’t offered to pay, the U.S. government would be paying Donald Trump’s business for the purpose of hosting the Japanese leader.”
Not only is Trump using his office to openly promote his business, he is also selling access to anyone who is willing to pay $200,000+ to be a member of his club. Reports signal that Trump plans to spend every weekend in February at the resort, where members will have access to him as he dines and plays golf at his properties.
The fact that access to the President of the United States is for sale raises questions of who is actually buying that access. On February 3, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tom Udall (D-NM) addressed a letter to Trump asking that he make the Mar-a-Lago membership list public.
“At $200,000, the Mar-a-Lago membership fee is financially out of reach for all but the wealthiest Americans and international elites. These aren’t the hardworking Americans you’ve long said have been ‘forgotten’ and need to be heard once again in Washington,” wrote the Senators. “Your Winter White House will provide an audience with you for those who can afford it, not to mention an increasing cash-flow into your family-run organization. Instead of draining the swamp, it appears you’re bringing Washington right to the swamps at Mar-a-Lago.”
Meanwhile, Trump continues to refer to his for-profit business as the “Winter White House.” Journalists should not follow suit. Members of the media should not help plug Trump’s for-profit business as the “Winter White House.” This conflict of interest is not normal and should not be normalized.
This report is part of the Donald Trump Conflict of Interest Files
Featured image: Wally Gobetz, Flickr Creative Commons