With this in mind, when Ivanka auctioned a lunch with her for tens of thousands of dollars, it raised eyebrows. Though the charitable auction was eventually scrapped, for a time, it appeared Donald Trump's daughter was putting a high price on access to an influential member of the incoming president's orbit.
This week, it's apparently Ivanka's brothers' turn. Time magazine, among others, reported:
A new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump's grown sons is offering access to the freshly-minted president during inauguration weekend -- all in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed "conservation" charities, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.
And the donors' identities may never be known.
Prospective million-dollar donors to the "Opening Day 2017" event -- slated for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, at Washington, D.C.'s Walter E. Washington Convention Center -- 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 details are murky, but according to the event management company helping oversee the fundraising, the money will go towards "conservation efforts." There would be no legal requirement to disclose the donors' names to the public.
In other words, on Jan. 20, Trump will be inaugurated. On Jan. 21, you can pony up some big bucks to hang out with the new president's adult sons -- who will apparently oversee Trump's business empire -- and no one will know it was you who bought the access.
All of this, of course, comes on the heels of additional fundraising -- and additional access-at-a-cost efforts -- from Trump's inaugural committee. The Washington Post reported a few weeks ago:
The committee raising money for President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural festivities is offering exclusive access to the new president, Cabinet nominees and congressional leaders in exchange for donations of $1 million and more.
For seven-figure contributions, Trump's richest supporters will get a slew of special perks during the inauguration weekend, including eight tickets to a "candlelight dinner" that will feature "special appearances" by Trump, his wife, Melania, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, according to a sheet detailing "underwriter package benefits" obtained by The Washington Post. The 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee confirmed the authenticity of the donor brochure, which was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity.
Other million-donor benefits include an exclusive lunch "with select Cabinet appointees and House and Senate leadership," four tickets to "an intimate dinner" with the Pences, eight tickets to a lunch with "the ladies of the first families," eight tickets and premier access to the inaugural ball and priority booking at "Premier Inaugural Hotel(s)."
Trump's team and its allies tend to respond to criticisms like these by pointing out that every modern president, from both parties, has had an inaugural committee that has done fundraising like this, and it's just how things tend to work in Washington, D.C. And as pro-Trump arguments go, this defense at least has the benefit of being true.
But let's not miss the forest for the trees: Trump ran on an anti-establishment platform, vowing to undo the business-as-usual norms in the nation's capital. Trump, positioning himself as a faux-populist, said he was disgusted by what he saw as routine corruption, and the crushing influence of special interests, who could buy access with a hefty check. "Pay to play," Trump effectively told voters, was one of the ugliest phrases in the political lexicon.
Paul Waldman added this morning, "You may recall how outraged Trump and pretty much every other Republican were at the idea that the Clinton Foundation -- which actually does good work -- could receive a large contribution from a donor who might at some later point have a meeting with the secretary of state. They described this as the absolute height of corruption, insider dealing so vile as to demand that Clinton be jailed at the earliest possible opportunity."
And yet, here we are, watching leading members of Team Trump put a generous price on access to themselves, and engaging in the exact behavior the president-elect condemned as a candidate in the very recent past.