Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner draws attention to the way Donald Trump has been personally profiting from people paying for access to him:
If you pay $200,000 a year to the company Donald Trump owns, you too can have access most weekends to the president and his top officials. As an alternative, your organization could cut a $150,000 check to bring in a couple of hundred people who will have a chance to schmooze with the president and cabinet officials. Foreign moguls and dignitaries welcome.
This isn’t Bill Clinton’s Lincoln Bedroom. This isn’t the Clinton Foundation during Hillary’s reign at the State Department. This is Mar-a-Lago.
Donald Trump, for the fourth weekend in the past five, has gone down to his Florida resort, and once again he is mingling with guests.
Carney makes the point that in the past, access to the President — a very, very valuable commodity — has been sold by associates of the President, such as Jack Abramoff. But now, it’s the President who personally profits:
Trump refused to sell his company or unload his properties. While he has given up management of them, he still owns them. That means he still profits when someone books a gala there or becomes a member. And if you’ve followed the lobbying game in Washington, you know that special interests are likely shelling out the cash to get a chance to be close to the president — not necessarily because they expect Trump to reward them as a quid pro quo for their membership, but because joining Mar-a-Lago is the best way to get close to him.
Mar-a-Lago doubled the price of membership in January, after Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton made access to him more valuable.
Trumpers will claim he has no choice but to retain an ownership stake in Mar-a-Lago, and to spend a lot of taxpayer dollars to move his presidency to a resort he owns every weekend. “What do you expect him to do?” they will cry.
But if Hillary Clinton pulled a stunt like this, Trumpers would be screaming. When you listen for their howling about this pay-for-access scheme, all you’ll hear from them is the relaxing sound of crickets.