Mar-a-Lago, the pricey private resort in Palm Beach, Florida, sold hundreds of tickets at more than $500 a piece to an annual New Year's Eve extravaganza planned for Saturday night that will feature a very special guest: the president-elect of the United States of America and his family.
President-elect Donald Trump owns the members-only luxury resort, which each year sells tickets to swank parties it throws on holidays and special occasions, including New Year's Eve, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The money raised for the soiree didn't go to charity. On the contrary, the Huffington Post noted, "Since Trump himself owns the Palm Beach, Florida, resort, those [ticket] sales profit him personally."
The article added, "Simply buying a ticket could be seen as an effort to curry favor with the president-elect. Those seeking an in-person audience with him also had an incentive to buy since Trump will be there."
What we have, in other words, is another example of the president-elect, taking advantage of his elected position to personally profit -- a situation Norm Eisen, who served as ethics counselor to President Obama, described as "atrocious."
Hope Hicks, the incoming White House Director of Strategic Communications, told Politico, "The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict." Obviously not. But shouldn't Team Trump care a little more?
The president-elect is already at the center of multiple conflict-of-interest controversies, and at the same time, there have been a series of reports in recent weeks about Trump, his adult children, and his inaugural committee selling access to the president-elect. Now, even one of Trump's resorts is doing the same thing.
The question is not whether or not Team Trump is "concerned about the appearance of a conflict"; the question is why Team Trump is willfully indifferent to the underlying problem.
Given the circumstances, it'd be comparable to Trump facing allegations that he's overly deferential towards Vladimir Putin and responding by naming Putin's top American ally to be the next Secretary of State.
Wait, bad example.
Hope Hicks' response added, "[T]he president cannot and does not have a conflict." The key word there is "cannot." We're still dealing with a situation in which Trump and his team believe his actions are absolutely permissible because they're his actions.
Indeed, he was quite explicit on this point in late November, telling the New York Times, "[T]he president can't have a conflict of interest…. [I]n theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent…. [T]he president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants."
It's this kind of brazen attitude that makes Trump the first president-elect in history to try to profit off a New Year's Eve gathering.