USA Today has the results of a remarkable investigation out today, showing how lobbyists buy pricey memberships to Trump’s golf clubs — an arrangement that puts money in his pocket. Not his campaign’s coffers. His own pocket.
Dozens of lobbyists, contractors and others who make their living influencing the government pay President Trump’s companies for membership in his private golf clubs, a status that can put them in close contact with the president, a USA TODAY investigation found.
Members of the clubs Trump has visited most often as president — in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia — include at least 50 executives whose companies hold federal contracts and 21 lobbyists and trade group officials. Two-thirds played on one of the 58 days the president was there, according to scores they posted online.
Because membership lists at Trump’s clubs are secret, the public has until now been unable to assess the conflicts they could create. USA TODAY found the names of 4,500 members by reviewing social media and a public website golfers use to track their handicaps, then researched and contacted hundreds to determine whether they had business with the government.
The review shows that, for the first time in U.S. history, wealthy people with interests before the government have a chance for close and confidential access to the president as a result of payments that enrich him personally. It is a view of the president available to few other Americans.
Among Trump club members are top executives of defense contractors, a lobbyist for the South Korean government, a lawyer helping Saudi Arabia fight claims over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the leader of a pesticide trade group that sought successfully to persuade the Trump administration not to ban an insecticide government scientists linked to health risks.
What does your $100,000 initiation fee buy you? Here are a couple of examples:
Trump marked his 100th day in office by visiting a factory owned by a company run by a member of his New Jersey golf club.
Standing behind Trump as he signed two executive orders was Robert Mehmel, president of the company that owns the Harrisburg, Pa., factory and another company that sells radars and electronics to the military, including about $54 million worth of contracts last year.
We don’t even know who he’s playing golf with, or who is visiting the Oval Office, any more.
Citing privacy and national security, the White House has moved to keep secret the president’s interactions. Unlike the Obama administration, the Trump White House does not disclose the president’s golf partners, or whether he played. The Trump team also ended an Obama administration practice of releasing White House visitor logs.
This is both shocking and totally expected.
On one level, the blatant nature of the unscrupulousness of this arrangement is jaw-dropping. Anyone who complained about Hillary Clinton’s corruption should be beside themselves over this. Had Hillary engaged in this activity, rage on the right would have been stratospheric — and appropriately so.
On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing surprising about this. A President who retains a financial stake in any business is putting out a huge “bribe me!” sign on the White House lawn. If you elect an immoral rich guy with a 70-year history of putting himself first, don’t be surprised when he puts himself first.
Donald Trump was going to drain the swamp. The swamp now looks about as drained as Houston after Harvey.
This is banana republic stuff. The way we do stuff here in America is we have lobbyists bribe politicians’ campaigns. That alone supposedly enraged people to the point where — the story goes — they rose up, rejected the establishment, and . . . elected a guy who has lobbyists pay him personally.
And the same rubes who were supposedly upset about the pay-for-play nature of the old system will shrug their shoulders at all of this. They’ll cry #FAKENEWS!! and issue absurd and laughable partisan defenses of this corruption.
Great, great journalism by USA Today.
Too bad nobody will care.