Donald Trump Has Used the Presidency to Advertise His Businesses
Setting up a “summer White House” at Trump's golf course in New Jersey or hosting foreign leaders at the his golf resort in Florida means that every meeting, every press conference, and every crisis becomes an opportunity to let the world know about Trump branded businesses.
According to a running tally by the New York Times, Trump visited at least one Trump branded property on 123 out of his first 379 days in office.
This constitutes naked political corruption and a clear abuse of public office.
The same is true of using public speeches to name-drop his businesses.
Unfortunately, using public office to advertise his businesses is just one of several ways in which Pres. Trump is using the presidency to enrich or potentially enrich himself.
He has also solicited payments of taxpayer money to his properties, used public office to attack a private retail store for dropping his daughter’s clothing line, and raised questions about selling access to the presidency to guests at his properties.
Other members of the Trump administration have also used their positions in government to promote products in which they or other members of the administration have a financial interest.
For example, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway used her position in government to endorse Ivanka Trump branded products.
And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used his position in government to encourage people to go watch a movie whose production he had invested in.
The result is that today's executive branch is comprised of a collection of kleptocrats.
Published: February 8, 2018
Refusal to Divest
Breaking with a long-standing democratic norm, Donald Trump has refused to divest himself of his business holdings despite having assumed the presidency.
This refusal has created conflicts of interest, resulted in tax-payer money ending up in the hands of Trump businesses, and has allowed Trump to use the presidency to advertise his businesses.
Frequent Trips to His Commercial Properties
Breaking with another democratic norm, Pres. Trump has taken frequent weekend trips, quick golf outings, and even a lengthy summer vacation at commercial properties that he owns.
This amounts to the use of public office for self-enrichment because it helps Trump market his properties in at least two ways. First, the constant media coverage of the president means that every time he makes a trip to one of his properties, the property is mentioned in the media, providing it with free advertising. And second, it associates the cache of he presidency with the Trump properties.
His first getaway from Washington as president was to his Mar-a-Lago club in southern Florida. He has since tallied 50 days at Mar-a-Lago, as of February 2, 2018, according to the New York Times.
Past presidents vacationed at non-commercial properties they owned or commercial properties they had no ownership stake in. For example, President Obama vacationed at a rented house on Martha’s Vineyard, a property in which he and his family had no ownership stake. President Bush vacationed at his ranch in Texas, a non-commercial property. And President Clinton stayed at the home of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV while visiting Grand Teton National Park.
But when it came time for Pres. Trump’s summer vacation, he made a 17-day stop at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, and the media circus surrounding the presidency followed.
As the country waited for a response to a growing opioid epidemic, the media’s cameras were trained on a meeting on the opioid crisis between Pres. Trump and his advisers at his golf resort.
And after a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one and injuring others, the country waited for the president’s response from his golf resort.
And even at a subsequent press conference Trump held on the Charlottesville attack, he could not help but use public office to promote the winery he owns in Charlottesville.
Hosting Foreign Leaders at His Commercial Properties
In February of 2017, Pres. Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a discussion on economic and security issues.
However, rather then simply hosting the Prime Minister at the White House, Pres. Trump decided that he and Abe would initially meet at the White House and then jet down to Florida to spend a weekend golfing and dining at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Like Trump’s numerous other trips to his commercial properties, this one provided free advertising for one of his businesses.
But this particular trip had the added marketing benefit of being of interest to Japanese media, providing the property with coverage not only to a domestic audience, but also to Japanese news viewers and readers.
And it just so happened that North Korea would conduct a missile test launch as Trump and Abe sat down for a Saturday evening dinner, generating frenzied breaking news coverage of the president’s response, which came from Mar-a-Lago.
And once again, when China’s President Xi Jinping visited Pres. Trump in April of 2017, the meeting was held at Mar-a-Lago.
This meeting provided Mar-a-Lago with free advertising both to American and Chinese audiences.
Using a U.N. Meeting to Promote A Property That Leases His Name
On September 18, 2017, the day before Trump's first ever speech to a U.N. General Assembly, Pres. Trump hosted a meeting of world leaders to discuss reforming the United Nations.
He opened his remarks to the assembled group of world leaders by commenting on the Trump World Tower property located just across the street from the U.N. headquarters in New York.
Pres. Trump said, “I actually saw great potential right across the street, to be honest with you, and it was only for the reason that the United Nations was here that that turned out to be such a successful project.”
Trump World Tower In New York City, located across the street from the U.N. Photograph: Corruption Watch.
The president thus used public office and the media attention trained on an international forum to let the world know about a Trump branded commercial property just across the street from the U.N. headquarters.
Donald Trump talks about Trump World Tower at a gathering of world leaders. Video courtesy of UN Web TV.
Presidents have traditionally divested themselves of business or financial interests that could create conflict of interests while they are in office.
However, Trump has chosen to break with this democratic norm.
This has allowed Trump to use the media attention that follows the presidency as a source of free advertising for his businesses.
Donald Trump has vacationed at his golf resort in New Jersey, providing free media coverage to the business.
He has also hosted the Chinese president and Japanese prime minister at his resort in Florida, providing the resort with free media attention in America, China, and Japan.
He even used his response to the Charlottesville white nationalist terror attack to advertise his winery in Charlottesville.
On another occasion, he used a meeting of world leaders gathered for the 2017 UN general assembly to promote Trump World Tower, a property in New York City that leases his name.
Repeatedly using the presidency to advertise his businesses is a misuse of public office for private gain, and therefore, constitutes political corruption.