Ethics Observations On The Trump Sons’ Influence Peddling Story


To catch you up: Celebrity gossip website TMZ  hyped the launch of new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump’s adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric based on what it called a “draft” of a soon to be released event brochure. The non-profit was offering, we were told, access to the new President during inauguration weekend  in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation” charities.  Prospective million-dollar donors to the “Opening Day 2017” event on  January 21, the day after inauguration, were to receive a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,” a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team, ”as well as tickets to other events” and “autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.”

The Center for Public Integrity was on this like a shot…and so was the news media. I received a link in an e-mail from someone who archly noted that “You seem to be interested in influence peddling,” a reference to my many posts about the real purpose behind the Clinton Foundation, “so perhaps you will find this of interest [Unsaid but understood: “…you Donald Trump enabling, racist, fascist bastard!”] In the link, TIME took the hand-off from the Center, and got a series of quotes from critics, like Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign reform organization.“This is problematic on so many levels,” Larry said.  “This is Donald Trump and the Trump family using a brand new organization to raise $1 million contributions for a vague goal of giving money to conservation charities, which seems a way of basically just selling influence and selling the ability to meet with the president.”

Noble cautioned that the details of the event and its association with the new nonprofit listing the Trump brothers as directors were still unclear. “It’s really hard to identify all the problems when they’re so vague,” he said.

True. As of today, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are no longer listed as directors of a that non-profit. Papers removing their names from the Opening Day were processed by the state of Texas,  a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state told CNN Money.

Never mind!


1. Before the election, when I was asking everyone for a single positive and rational reason to vote for Donald Trump, “He’s not Hillary,” “I want to destroy the Republican Party,” “He says what he thinks,” and “Burn it down!” not meeting my definition of positive, one repeat submission was, “At least with him, the news media will be doing its job and not making excuses and covering up, like it does for Obama and Hillary.” This could also be said of the “non-partisan” Center for Public Integrity, which raised no concerns about the Clinton Foundation until September of this year, though the Foundation’s  dubious fundraising while Hillary was Secretary of State and later the Presumed President To Be had been discussed in many forums, including this one, for many months. Yet a draft of a brochure featured on TMZ  [Current headline: “Cher Sued! I Got You Babe! You Stole My Font!” ] without confirmation was enough for TIME and other sources to repeat the TMZ story as fact. Naturally, various versions of the story were circulated by the All Trump Panic All The Time Brigade on Facebook.

Incompetent journalism.


Fake News.

2. Will a hair-trigger impulse to assume the worst, or manufacture it, with Trump serve the public better than the “move along, nothing to see here!” approach the mainstream media has employed regarding Obama? Maybe. I’m not convinced.

3. Since the Clinton Foundation has made Bill and Hillary so fabulously rich and provided a nice money laundering option for corporations and foreign governments, all without legal or regulatory, or even much public relations penalties until very recently, of course others will try to use the same model, or improve on it. This is why the Clintons are #1 and #2 on the Ethics Alarms Top Ten Ethics Corrupters.

4. Nonetheless, better keep a close eye on the Trump Boys. Giving money, jobs, contracts and other goodies to the children of politicians and elected officials is a yawning chasm in conflict of interest rules and laws. This was what got ex-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell prosecuted, and the tactic is nearly impossible to stop, unless the powerful parent and the tempted children actively resist it. When NBC jumps on the Trumps for accepting such boons, somebody please remind them of how they paid Chelsea Clinton  an annual salary of $600,000 to show how completely lacking she was in any talent for broadcasting whatsoever.

“Families can be complicated, and big families are even more complicated,” said C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel during the administration of the elder George Bush, told the New York Times. “And the Bush families and the Trump families are both big families. So a little extra care is warranted.”

Not being greedy and having the integrity not to try to capitalize on one’s father’s success would also help. Robert Lincoln, Abe’s unlucky oldest son ( he was by his father’s bedside when the President died of an assassin’s bullet, and was on the scene when both Garfield and McKinley were shot) refused to accept any offer, benefit or honor that he believed were generated by his last name rather than by his own achievements.

5.  From the Times:

“During his 1988 campaign, George Bush was sensitive to the “microscopic probing” his children were facing, particularly as the election drew near. In a letter to them in May 1988, he cautioned about the “new friends” they might encounter, suggesting that the friends would ask for things.

“I know I must sound very defensive, but — believe me — every effort will be made to find some phone call, some inquiry, some letter that can be made to appear improper,” he wrote in the letter, obtained from his presidential library. It was addressed to George W. Bush, but appeared to be directed at the whole family. “Soon the election will be at hand, and then you will not have to put up with preachy letters from your father, as in this case, maybe.”

6.  Ivanka Trump also blundered into this thicket. She had organized an online auction, for the benefit the Eric Trump Foundation, that offered the winning bidder the opportunity to have coffee with her. Businessmen told The New York Times that their goal in bidding would be to pass a messages to her father on policy issues, or  to gather information that might give them insight on investments. The auction was canceled  last week.

7. All professionals, and especially law enforcement and elected officials, must avoid the appearance of impropriety, because the public trust is at risk. The children of Presidents better learn to be sensitive to  the appearance of impropriety as well.

Or else.


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

17 responses to “Ethics Observations On The Trump Sons’ Influence Peddling Story

  1. Anonymous Coward

    relevant to your point about standards of evidence and bias:

  2. valkygrrl

    Jack, what do you think about what happened in North Carolina today?Apparently a deal had been made and then broken.

  3. Alex

    Imagine that the media were on top of every suspicious action of Mrs. Clinton for the past few years. She might have even corrected course – like it appears the Trump kids did. She might not have been such an awful candidate and we might be talking about President-elect Clinton today.

  4. The Apprentice’s kids are off the books now, but the “damage” is done. What has actually been done, is the laying of the first stretch of pavement on the road to Trump’s impeachment. “Opening Day Gate” ain’t the last gotcha.

    • I am assuming that Democrats learned at least one thing from the GOP’s experience trying to get Clinton out via impeachment: it’s election suicide, unless the President has been caught selling secret to Russia or accepting bribes from the mob, or is overwhelmingly unpopular, like Nixon. This is a waste of time to even argue about, sort of like eliminating the Electoral College. If they couldn’t convict Andrew Johnson, it’s not going to happen.

      • Neil Dorr

        “This is a waste of time to even argue about, sort of like eliminating the Electoral College.”

        I agree with you on the two points you referenced, but I fear that way of thinking is a dangerous one. Else, all sorts of evils can be excused away with the argument “It’s not going anywhere, so it’s pointless to even talk about.” Hell, (and I mean this as a compliment) at least 1/3 of the things you write about are endemic problems and unlikely to vanish anytime soon.

        • “unless the President has been caught selling secret to Russia or accepting bribes from the mob, or is overwhelmingly unpopular, like Nixon. This is a waste of time to even argue about”

          If you read those two fragments from complete sentences as one unique sentence, I don’t think Jack disagrees with you. I think he just recognizes that *until* Trump really does something impeachment-worthy, it is useless for Democrats to even discuss ways to impeach Trump.

      • Chris

        I am assuming that Democrats learned at least one thing from the GOP’s experience trying to get Clinton out via impeachment: it’s election suicide, unless the President has been caught selling secret to Russia or accepting bribes from the mob, or is overwhelmingly unpopular, like Nixon.

        My prediction is that Trump will fulfill that last one quite shortly into his presidency.

        • It is not an unreasonable prediction, but I wouldn’t bet much on it. If there is one think we all should have learned from 2016, it is that where the universe’s treatment of Trump is concerned,nothing is predictable.

          • luckyesteeyoreman

            If there is another thing we all should have learned from 2016, it is that the emocrat party will stop at nothing to get their most extreme left candidates elected. For emocrats, “the ends justify the means” is 100% predictable.

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        “I am assuming that Democrats learned at least one thing from the GOP’s experience trying to get Clinton out via impeachment: it’s election suicide…”

        HOW do you figure THAT?! Bl Cnton (pardon the correct spellings) was impeached, and the next president was a Republican (albeit in a squeaker).

        Are you referring to the 1998 midterms? They didn’t swing THAT much.

        How many times is this truth going to be ignored: If Bl had resigned in 1998, Gore would have won in 2000 in a landslide – maybe even, with Hlary as his running mate. AND the 1998 midterms would have been a YOOOGE massacre of Republicans in both houses of Congress.

        • The impeachment was overwhelmingly unpopular; the GOP did lose in the midterms; and Gore’s loss was a fluke. Plus the impeachment trial was a farce, and Clinton played victim so well that his wife got elected Senator. And here we are!

  5. Whatever post you just posted (I got an email notification), appears to be a mis-fire… somehow it isn’t publishing.

    • My dog was on my lap as I tried to start the last post, and I hit “publish” instead of draft, which I wanted to hit so I could work on it in my office. So within less than a minute, I made the misfired unfinished post “Private,” so it disappeared. Now the whole thing is up. I apologize for the mistake and confusion.

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