President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive to the "Make America Great Again Welcome Concert" at the Lincoln Memorial, Jan. 19, 2017, in Washington. 
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Melania Trump makes a tidy sum from unusual photo agreement

CNBC put together an interesting report late last week on Donald Trump’s White House serving as a “money-making machine” for the president. As John Harwood noted, the Republican has positioned himself to receive money “from the government he runs, the party he leads, his allies in the states, and … interests with stakes in his decisions.”

But NBC News moved the ball forward a bit yesterday, noting that Trump’s wife has benefited from an unusual deal of her own.

Since her husband took office Melania Trump has earned six figures from an unusual deal with a photo agency in which major media organizations have indirectly paid the Trump family despite a requirement that the photos be used only in positive coverage.

President Donald Trump’s most recent financial disclosure reveals that in 2017 the first lady earned at least $100,000 from Getty Images for the use of any of a series of 187 photos of the first family shot between 2010 and 2016 by Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux.

It’s difficult to say precisely how much the first lady has received through her deal with Getty Images, but according to the president’s latest financial disclosure, the revenue from photo royalties in 2017 was between $100,000 and $1,000,000.

There’s no shortage of examples of Trump World members profiting from their position within the administration, but we didn’t know this applied to Melania Trump, too.

Complicating matters in this story is that extra stipulation: Getty Images’ licensing agreement requires that these pictures be used in “positive stories only.”

So let me get this straight. A Belgian photographer took a series of photographs of Melania Trump before her husband became president. These photographs are available to news organizations, which pay Getty Images for the right to publish them. But not only does the first lady make quite a bit of money from this arrangement, the photographs have strings attached: they are not supposed to be used in media coverage that’s critical of the first lady.

NBC News’ report added, “It’s not unheard of for celebrities to earn royalties from photos of themselves, but it’s very unusual for the wife of a currently serving elected official.”

We didn’t need another reason to question the Trump family’s ethics, but it appears we have one anyway.