As the Trump White House faces numerous lawsuits over potential conflicts of interest stemming from the president's refusal to separate himself from his business empire, a new analysis shows that Trump continues to profit lavishly from memberships at his many golf clubs.
"I don't think we have anything to compare this to in presidential history. He is refusing to acknowledge that the office is bigger than his business."
—John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation
Typically, as McClatchy notes in a new report, golf club membership fees "take the form of refundable deposits."
But Trump "put in place unusual policies that allowed him to keep the high one-time fees charged to new members and put language in his club rules that allowed him to spend the money on anything he wanted," McClatchy's Anita Kumar writes.
Now, each time someone joins one of his clubs, Trump himself pockets the fee.
Whether it's the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where the U.S. Women's Open Golf Championship starts Monday; the club outside the nation's capital, where the president often spends time over the weekend; the historic Mar-a-Lago Club, where he hosted the president of China and the prime minister of Japan; or one of his other exclusive addresses, each collects a hefty initiation fee from new members—up to $450,000 per person, with annual dues on top of that.
"In the more than five months he has been in office, Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago on 25 days and his golf clubs on 36 days, sometimes more than once a day, according to a compilation of information released by the White House," Kumar writes.
Watchdog groups have also repeatedly expressed alarm at Trump's blatant refusal to comply with federal transparency standards. Last week, as Common Dreams reported, Walter Shaub—the head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE)—announced his resignation, citing problems with the "current situation" in the White House.
In an interview with CBS, Shaub said that it appears Trump's "businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency."
But as McClatchy's reporting demonstrates, Trump is enriching himself as well as his businesses.
The Presidency is the only thing Trump has managed to turn a profit on in his entire life. https://t.co/oaciUzZWSV
— sean. (@SeanMcElwee) July 9, 2017
Even as president, Trump earns up to hundreds of thousands of $$ every time a new member joins one of his clubs https://t.co/ygsBAaEg8B
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) July 7, 2017
"I don't think we have anything to compare this to in presidential history," John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, told McClatchy. "He is refusing to acknowledge that the office is bigger than his business."