The Doral & The Ethics Swamp
Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 28, 2019
The Trump war on ethics is a lifelong struggle.
There will be no negotiations, no give and take, no troop withdrawals, no end to hostilities. Donald Trump simply does not recognize that there is a problem.
His announcement at the end of the G-7 meeting of international leaders that the next meeting, in the United States, will likely be at the Doral country club that he owns in Miami is a direct conflict between an official government gathering and one that benefits his business.
As things stand, this is exactly the kind of behavior seemingly outlawed in black and white by the Constitution’s emoluments clause, prohibiting a president from benefitting financially from the office. In actuality, it is the subject of multiple court challenges.
Trump’s argument is simple: The Doral is a perfect setting with lots of acreage to keep things quiet and secure, keep protests away, with lots of buildings and grounds and luxury, catered services for these international guests. Why not use it?
It is also a place that is under water financially and needs the business. According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper,“At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69%.”
It also represents security challenges, and, by the way, has a lawsuit pending about bedbugs.
More importantly, since Day One, Trump has refused to acknowledged that ethics protocols should bar him from any activity that happens to benefit his businesses.
Since taking office in 2017, Trump has tallied more than 2,300 conflicts of interest resulting from his decision to retain his business interests, according to a report released by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).Despite promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington by rooting out corruption, CREW says Trump has “has pushed it into uncharted territory, innovating new forms of corruption.”
The CREW report lists more than 360 visits of Trump Organization properties at taxpayer expense over about a third of the days he has been in office. At least 111 officials from 65 countries have stayed at his properties. There have been more than 630 visits to Trump properties by 250 Trump administration officials, with 90 members of Congress making 188 visits. All told, this is a “relentless promotion of Trump businesses by the president and members of his administration (that) has sent a message to those seeking political influence that patronizing his businesses is a way to appeal to the president.”
CREW, made up of ethics advisors to multiple administrations from both parties, says, “The corrupt relationship between the Trump Organization and the White House calls into question President Trump’s decision-making as president. When his personal financial interests diverge from America’s national ones, which does he prioritize? That’s not a question we should have to ask.”
So, you could choke on the number of news articles published since his inauguration detailing the multiple millions of public dollars that have been spent to house Secret Service security folks at Trump in New York or at Mar-o-Lago in West Palm Beach or his summer place at a New Jersey golf club, transportation, food and lodging.
It has been well-established that the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, a luxury hotel par excellence, has been overbooked by foreign delegations seeking to buddy up with the president. His properties have been beneficiaries of policies on tariffs and immigration visas.
Trump has been making chumps of American taxpayers with a total disdain for ethics.
Moreover, the efforts to go after this in any organized legal effort have proved near-impossible because it is difficult to establish a court-accepted standard of standing to bring a lawsuit as injured party. The most prominent cases brought under the emoluments clause in a Maryland court were halted exactly over such legal grounds, though other cases are slowly awaiting their turns.
Meanwhile, of course, none of what you and I see as ethics infractions have been allowed to draw the attention of a Senate too fixated on using Trump’s tenure to get judgeships and the evisceration of environmental laws so sought by majority Senate Republicans. Voices for pronouncement of ethics enforcement are simply ignored in the face of political majorities for those with unrelated agendas.
So, it seems perfectly okay for Trump’s White House to ignore congressional subpoenas for hearings that range from the Mueller investigation to why Jared Kushner and first daughter Ivanka Trump could get top secret security clearances.
Likewise, it has been fine for Trump to ignore the investigation itself or the growing calls in Congress for his impeachment for actual federal crimes.
Ethics are guidelines we as a society put in place to ensure fairness, to assure ourselves and all with whom we deal that no one, including the president, can put his thumb on the legal scales, or for that matter, the business and personal aggrandizement scales. We say we belief in equal treatment before the law.
We have let Donald Trump get away with trashing our codes of ethics.
That is unethical, and as bad as Trump is for taking advantage, we have ourselves to blame.