Trump has already taken financial advantage of being President, by raising the initiation fee to the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort. The initiation fee has been raised from $150,000 to $200,000
. That sum represents an increase of $100,000 from a year ago.
The timing of the increase in initiation fee raised questions among ethics lawyers, who have repeatedly questioned Trump’s refusal to sell his assets. Trump’s stake in Mar-a-Lago and other business ventures, they say, opens the door to conflicts of interest while he’s president. Larry Noble, general counsel of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, said it’s hard not to see the increases “as being part of an effort to exploit his being president.”
“Even if legal,” Noble said, “it presents clear conflicts of interest and, perhaps equally important, demeans the presidency.”
To add insult to injury, the Trump Organization executives have already indicated they’re looking at expansion. Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger suggested to Bloomberg this week that the company could triple the number of Trump-branded hotels in the United States.
The outrageous thing is that Trump has already crafted a way to continue to funnel huge amounts of money to his businesses. Donald Trump has already declared himself to be a candidate for re-election in 2020. Thus, tax payer dollars are being used to increase the personal wealth of our President, and people and/or countries that support Trump’s re-election campaign are also sending money directly to Trump.
Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show that Trump’s 2016 campaign paid millions of dollars to fly on his aircraft, compensate his relatives for unspecified campaign activities and rent space in Trump properties, including Trump Tower in New York, the Trump golf club in Bedminster, N.J., and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The Trump campaign of 2016 funneled $12.8 million to Trump as of Dec. 31, 2016.
Such payments are not illegal. Federal law allows campaigns to compensate businesses owned by candidates for any goods and services provided. But the amount of money Trump’s campaign funneled to his own businesses is on a scale rarely if ever seen before, says Norm Eisen, ethics adviser to former President Barack Obama.
“It’s customary for campaigns to provide some reimbursement, but we have never seen anything like this. It merits close scrutiny,” Eisen told NPR. He said the watchdog group he chairs, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is “poring over the records to make sure the charges are justified and legal.” Moreover it is customary for presidents to wait to declare their intention to seek reelection until after the midterm congressional elections. Because Trump announced so early, he can continue to take in campaign contributions and use some of them to compensate his businesses.
The inescapable conclusion is that Donald Trump is using his position as President to enhance his personal net worth. He has rewarded those who gave him money during the campaign. That form of graft and corruption is only intensified now that Trump is President.