Under President Donald Trump, the ethics of politics stinks.
During Trump’s campaign, he frequently spoke of “draining the swamp.” In practice, the swamp is being filled with people and actions that stink.
Of course, for any one related to Trump, this is a good time to make money. Even indirect relatives are openly hawking their connections, until the media catches them.
Not just ethics questions arise from Trump actions. The pursuit of profits is spurring Congressional and legal inquiries.
Ethics of Profit
A Thursday USA Today report outlined how Trump’s golf clubs are profiting from his presidency. Memberships and dues in these clubs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many members are lobbyists and federal contractors.
No law prohibits membership in a golf club of a president. However, it does raise questions of ethics. Should the President and his family benefit financially from those who have business with the government? Is it fair for those with wealth to have preferential access to the President?
Moreover, national security questions have also arisen. The Trump Hotel in DC is not just a top destination for tourists and Trump hangers-on. It is also becoming foreign governments’ venue of choice.
Does that influence US foreign policy? Will Trump not look kindly on the governments that patronize the hotel?
The hotel connections and the Constitution’s emoluments clauses are prompting various lawsuits against Trump. These clauses suggest that a president should not receive any financial benefit from his office other than his salary. Trump contends that the clauses do not apply to his profits.
Ethics Against Nepotism
It is not just Trump who is financially benefiting from the Presidency. Ethics against nepotism appear to have been abandoned.
Donald Trump Jr., the President’s oldest son, is getting $100,000 for an appearance at the University of North Texas. This fee is double of what he was charging when his father was still not the president. A tax-services firm led by a Trump tax advisor is the lead sponsor.
At least Donald Trump, Jr., is not directly in his father’s government. It is not unusual for the President’s relatives to cash in on their connections, although not so brazenly.
However, Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are senior White House advisers. But some actions connected to their businesses have raised ethics questions.
For example, on the same day of a summit between the Chinese and US presidents, China approved trademarks for Ivanka’s fashion brand. The brand will reportedly open its first stand-alone store in the DC Trump hotel.
Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, is confronting ethics questions relating to financing for a building on Fifth Avenue. Kushner’s sister also faced criticism after implying in China that her connections would facilitate investors’ immigration to the US.
US presidents, at least in recent history, were not known for naked pursuit of profits and nepotism. That used to be what we expected of developing countries. Are we going backward regarding ethics?