In D.C., Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville became so politically toxic, there was a sudden exodus from several White House advisory panels, with private-sector members deciding they no longer wanted to be associated with this president.
But about 1,000 miles to the south, Trump World faced a slightly different kind of problem stemming from the same controversy. The New York Times reported:
With its ornate 20,000-square-foot ballroom and manicured lawns, President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., is often the site of elaborate fund-raisers, drawing big charities – and big dollars.
But several organizations are having a change of heart since Mr. Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., after a white nationalist rally and an attack by a driver that left a woman dead. There were “very fine people on both sides,” Mr. Trump said.
Over the weekend, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach and the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society became the latest nonprofit groups to cancel galas at Mar-a-Lago.
Exact tallies vary, but I believe that was the 10th cancellation of the 16 big-ticket events scheduled at Mar-a-Lago for the upcoming “social season.” [Update: The latest Washington Post tally says Mar-a-Lago Club “has been deserted by 14 charities” over the last several days, but the new, overall total is 15 cancellations.)
Though none of the groups that are moving their events condemned the president directly, each made clear they were choosing a different venue in order to avoid being associated with Trump-related controversies.
Take the American Red Cross, for example.
The group, which has hosted the International Red Cross Ball at Trump’s resort 10 times since 2005, announced on Friday that Mar-a-Lago “has increasingly become a source of controversy and pain for many of our volunteers, employees and supporters.” In a not-so-subtle shot at the president’s record, the same statement added, “The Red Cross provides assistance without discrimination to all people in need, regardless of nationality, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or political opinions, and we must be clear and unequivocal in our defense of that principle.”
A Washington Post piece added, “These losses could reduce the club’s revenue by hundreds of thousands of dollars by each event, and deny President Trump his dual role as president and host to the island’s partying elite. If he returns to the club for weekends next winter, the president could often find its grand ballrooms quiet and empty.”
And while that would no doubt be a source of great disappointment to Trump, let’s not miss the forest for the trees: this is still one big ethics mess.
The Mar-a-Lago cancellations certainly are an embarrassment for the president, but they’re also taking money out of his pocket: he still profits from this Florida resort that he uses his office to help promote. Trump’s talk during the campaign about a “blind trust” was nonsense: Mar-a-Lago remains a Trump-owned property.
The irony is, had the president divested as he was supposed to, the golf club probably wouldn’t be facing so many cancellations.
Of course, when it comes to Trump’s finances, he’s apparently losing money as a result of these charities moving their events, but Republican organizations are helping mitigate the lost revenue: the Washington Post reports today, “At least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association have together spent more than $473,000 at Trump hotels or golf resorts this year, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance filings. Trump’s companies collected an additional $793,000 from the RNC and the president’s campaign committee, some of which included payments for rent and legal consulting.”