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Sunday, January 21, 2018

'Presidency for Sale'

Report Details Big-Buck Spending by Influence Seekers at Trump Properties
Related imagePresident Donald Trump's first year in office has been a "year of unprecedented conflicts of interest," according to a new report that documents how dozens of political candidates, foreign governments, interest groups, and other private entities have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the president's properties since his inauguration.
"Donald Trump entered office with the most blatant and potentially corrupting conflicts of interest in the history of American politics, and things only got worse from there." —Robert Weissman, Public Citizen
The 64 patrons identified by Public Citizen—through government filings and news reports—in Presidency for Sale range from the private prison company GEO Group and the American Petroleum Institute, to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Society and the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a contingent of lobbyists and state officials that work to advance a corporate agenda in legislatures across the country.

The Saudi Arabian government is also on the list, and as Public Citizen noted in a tweet about its report, "The Saudi effort to curry favor with the Trump administration stands out above all: A PR firm spent $270,000 on behalf of the Saudi government at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. on an undisclosed date." 

The full list, detailed in a public spreadsheet, includes:

  • 35 political candidates or political organizations;
  • 16 trade or interest groups;
  • 4 charities, including one run by Trump's son, Eric;
  • 4 foreign governments;
  • 3 religious groups;
  • 2 individual companies; and
  • 1 college football team.
Among the political organizations listed are groups supporting Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House Majority Leader.

The most popular Trump properties frequented by the corporate and political powers that be, according to the report, are the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida—the so-called Winter White House, which Trump visits often—and the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. 

"Business is booming at the Trump International Hotel in D.C., not because of the décor, but because corporations and foreign governments want to curry favor with the president," said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Donald Trump entered office with the most blatant and potentially corrupting conflicts of interest in the history of American politics, and things only got worse from there."

Although Trump has turned over control of day-to-day business operations to his sons, while serving as president, he has maintained close ties to his empire, which includes hotels, golf clubs, restaurants, and real estate developments. 

"Donald Trump is a man who is easily flattered," noted Alan Zibel, the report's author and research director of Public Citizen's Corporate Presidency Project. 

"Corporations and foreign governments know the best way to get on his good side is to open up their wallets at one of Trump's many businesses."

Public Citizen's report is just the latest to raise concerns about the administration's ethical conflicts. 

Last year, watchdog groups filed a lawsuit to force the government to release the visitor logs for Trump residences and Mar-a-Lago, and a USA TODAY investigation published in September revealed how "top executives, lobbyists, and contractors are buying access" to Trump through memberships at his numerous golf clubs.