The web of potential conflicts of interest that the president operates out of continues to unravel. A comprehensive USA Today analysis has found that, even though the president has claimed time and time again to be the champion of America’s working class, he has surrounded himself with dozens upon dozens of lobbyists at his golf clubs that pockmark the country.
Membership records at Trump Organization golf clubs are not public, but that didn’t stop USA Today from seeking to uncover who is a part of the entities. Reporters “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.”
As the publication notes, the number of lobbyists and big business executives that they found with personal access to the president thanks to their golf club membership is unprecedented.
“[A]t least 50 executives whose companies hold federal contracts and 21 lobbyists and trade group officials” are members of one of the three Trump golf clubs that the president has visited most often since taking office. These three clubs are in Bedminster, New Jersey; Palm Beach, Florida; and the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., respectively.
These individuals include people like Thomas Spulak, a lawyer “who represents the Saudi government in its efforts to fight claims by families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” and Jay Vroom, CEO of the pesticide trade group Croplife America, which successfully pressured the federal government to refrain from enacting a ban on a pesticide called chlorpyrifos that has been linked to health problems in children.
Under normal circumstances, none of this would be an issue. However, the president has chosen to flagrantly disregard both precedent and the law and maintain his connection to his many businesses, including his golf clubs. Thus, not only do these individuals have potential personal access to the president, but he also has them to thank for a significant chunk of his earnings from his golf clubs.
Initiation fees at the president’s golf clubs can be over $100,000, and according to financial disclosure forms, the president’s golf clubs brought in over $600 million in 2015 and 2016 — although, as USA Today notes, it’s unknown exactly how much of that is profit, since the president has refused to release his tax returns.
The individuals exposed by USA Today as members of the president’s golf clubs apparently insisted that they have not discussed official matters with Trump — because of course they did. Would anyone really expect a lobbyist to admit to exploiting a backdoor to the president?
Even still, some admitted to “advice” trading hands in interactions between the president and members of his golf clubs.
Ed Russo, a member of Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, told USA Today:
‘Access to this president has been different than it has been in the past, and everybody thinks they have an opportunity to provide information that could be helpful to the country.’
Unsurprisingly, neither the White House nor Trump’s businesses had any comment. The president has been sued over his continued connections to his businesses, and the outcome of that litigation remains to be seen.