Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Ethics Watchdog group issues new report comparing Trump and Biden Administrations’ compliance with the law

Biden administration financial disclosures show strong pattern of compliance

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW)

Introduction (To read the full report, CLICK HERE).

Stark differences between Biden and Trump administration officials’ financial disclosures highlight a need for reforms of ethics rules. 

A review of senior Biden administration officials’ financial disclosures for 2022 shows a high degree of compliance with divestiture obligations, and even includes examples of cabinet members going beyond required divestitures. 

In contrast, several notable examples from both the Trump White House and Cabinet illustrate how officials were permitted to retain holdings that presented significant concerns about conflicts of interest and appeared to allow them to profit off of their public positions. 

To prevent future abuses, Congress should adopt legislation that bans the president, vice president, cabinet members and all senior White House staff from owning and trading individual stocks and from retaining personal interests in family businesses that could make them susceptible to influence-peddling. 

For example, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump reported earning between $172 million and $640 million in outside income while working in the White House. 

One source of this income was from Ivanka Trump’s eponymous business holdings, which benefited from at least 28 foreign trademarks that were approved while she served in the White House. The timing of many of these approvals raised significant ethics questions. 

In addition to these conflicts of interest, Ivanka Trump worked on the implementation of the 2018 Opportunity Zones program while her husband owned a substantial financial stake in Cadre, a company which offered investment vehicles under the same program. 

Kushner’s stake in Cadre grew from between $5 million and $25 million when he entered the administration to between $25 million and $50 million by the end of his employment in the White House, despite his being told it was “reasonably necessary” for him to divest this interest in 2019.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump reported earning between $172 million and $640 million in outside income while working in the White House.

Members of Trump’s cabinet were also plagued by conflicts of interest and compliance issues. 

For example, Wilbur Ross earned between $53 million and $127 million in outside income while serving as the Secretary of Commerce where his tenure was marked by repeated instances of him mixing personal business with his official duties and other compliance issues. He continued to hold stock in an investment firm after he previously certified that he divested those holdings as well all other conflicting assets he pledged to sell during his Senate confirmation process. 

Ross’s financial disclosures and compliance documents contained so many omissions and inaccuracies that the Office of Government Ethics (“OGE”) first denounced his conduct, and later refused to certify his 2018 financial disclosure report for non-compliance with his ethics agreement. 

Another cabinet member, Betsy DeVos, who earned at least $225 million in outside income while working as Secretary of Education, retained a significant financial stake in a “brain-performance” company which offers unproven, medication-free treatments for children and adults. 

DeVos failed to issue a recusal statement for matters related to Neurocore, despite reporting a stake in the company valued between $5 million and $25 million and the possibility that the company could partner with schools and benefit from programs under her influence. 

Like...Trump, his cabinet members and senior White House officials seemingly disregarded their ethical obligations, including the possible conflicts of interest that could arise from the business interests they retained. These are but a few examples of the ethical challenges that plagued the Trump Administration. 

In contrast, the vast majority of Biden’s cabinet members and senior White House staff did not report holding any publicly traded stock or divested the entirety of their stock holdings, while the remaining officials appear to be taking steps to resolve potential conflicts or have been permitted to retain some limited holdings that do not appear to pose a conflict.