Ethical Hazards Dot the President’s Fairways

In Conflict of Interest On

Ethics watchdogs and some Democrats in Congress have viewed the convergence of the Trump presidency and his family golf business with suspicion. Some question whether golf club memberships — which can involve upfront payments from $10,000 to $300,000 — could be used to curry favor with Mr. Trump and his administration.

The initiation fees have also aroused the ire of some members leaving the Trump clubs. They complain that the Trumps refuse to refund the money even decades later, according to court records and interviews with former members, which is harsher than the policy at some other clubs. Until the money is returned, the longstanding rules at the Trump clubs state that the Trumps can use the money “for any purpose.”

In addition, prospective members of the Trump clubs do not face the rigorous vetting that the Trump Organization’s new hotel business partners receive, according to person briefed on the company’s ethics policies who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The decision not to scrutinize the new members — because the individual club fees are immaterial to the overall Trump business — means corporate lobbyists and foreign officials could become members without their affiliations being disclosed, a possibility that some Democrats in Congress have raised as troubling.

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