In a move outgoing ethics counselor to President Barack Obama Norm Eisen called “atrocious,” several major news outlets report that Donald Trump sold highly-profitable tickets to a lavish new-year’s-eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort. The ridiculous price of the ticket – the profits of which went directly to Trump’s pocket, not a charity – guaranteed access to the President-elect, in what is a clear violation of ethics.
Politico reports, “Mar-a-Lago, the pricey private resort in Palm Beach, Florida, sold hundreds of tickets at more than $500 a piece to an annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza planned for Saturday night that will feature a very special guest: the president-elect of the United States of America and his family.” Though the Trump team declined to disclose the price of a ticket, one person privy to the event said that tickets ranged from $525-$575.
This kind of business profit is considered normal and fair-game under typical situations – but NOT when the one profiting is the President-elect of the United States of America. MSNBC also covered the story, adding their explanation, “Ordinarily, there’s nothing especially noteworthy about a Florida resort selling tickets to a New Year’s Eve “extravaganza,” but the circumstances are obviously very different this year. In this case, we’re looking at a dynamic in which the president-elect’s business is, in effect, selling access to the president-elect.”
The Trump team responded to fingers pointing out the conflict of interest through Hope Hicks, Trump’s incoming White House director of strategic communications. She summed up the Trump-team attitude, “The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict. This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.”
Steve Benen of MSNBC reflected on the news.
Indeed, he was quite explicit on this point in late November, telling the New York Times, “[T]he president can’t have a conflict of interest…. [I]n theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent…. [T]he president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants.”
It’s this kind of brazen attitude that makes Trump the first president-elect in history to try to profit off a New Year’s Eve gathering.