How we’re tracking President Trump’s conflicts of interest


Welcome to the Trump Conflicts of Interest Project, a resource the Sunlight Foundation has built with the public and the press. Given the global reach of President Donald J. Trump’s business empire and his refusal to disclose his tax returns and divest from the Trump Organization to focus on public service, the United States of America needs the public to actively monitor who’s actually being served by his presidency.

The implications of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest are crucial for assessing his performance as president. That evaluation requires keeping track of the individuals, businesses and foreign governments that may seek to benefit from a relationship with America’s chief executive.

Are such relationships improper? Illegal? Should they be halted? Are current laws and regulations sufficient to stop someone from blatantly profiting from public service?

The American public – his constituents – can start to answer those questions once we identify the specific transactions related to the myriad potential conflicts he brings to office. You can explore what we’ve found in the spreadsheet embedded below:

How this will work

We’ll continue to catalog the hundreds of concerns that continue to shroud the White House. You’ll share new potential conflicts and new developments.

You’ll help us report out the instances of when and where these concerns play out, both nationally and internationally, in states and in local communities.

We’ll document together how they’re affecting public policy or private profits. If this happens anywhere, it matters everywhere.

What we’ve built

Our inventory focuses on President Trump and his immediate family members. So far, that includes:

  • A catalogue of Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s relationship with every company disclosed on his 2017 financial disclosure. Any positions from which Trump has resigned are noted, as are both of the couple’s ownership stakes in each business entity.
  • Potential Trump family conflicts of interest harvested from BuzzFeed’s excellent database of personal connections within Trump’s orbit.
  • Additional concerns about conflicts of interest aggregated from various news reports.

Multiple news outlets are working on potential conflicts of interests for other members of Trump’s administration. We especially recommend the joint ProPublica-New York Times database of appointees carrying out Trump’s regulatory rollback.

How we built it

Following are some notes on our general approach and specific methodology. If you have any questions about our process, please drop us a line.

  • This first iteration of the inventory focuses on structural conflicts of interest. These are documented relationships that may lend themselves to presidential actions that favor Trump’s personal interests over the country’s public interest. As we build this out, we’ll inventory specific examples where those conflicting interests play out.
  • Each recorded concern includes at least one linked source and the corresponding date it was published. If primary source documents are available, we’ve tried to link to them here.
  • Most records reference Pres. Trump retaining an “ownership stake” in various business entities. This may reflect total or partial and direct or indirect ownership; it is beyond the current scope of this database to specify proportional ownership stakes, due to complicated ownership structures. However, every reference to Trump’s ownership stake in a business was traced through ownership attributions as reported on his 2017 financial disclosure.
  • The “category” field records the current known status of each conflict of interest concern:
    • “Active” includes companies in which Pres. Trump or his immediate family members retain an ownership interest or current position, as well as individual cases as described.
    • “Potential” includes companies whose ownership structure is unreported, and with which any Trump family members’ current positions are unreported, as well as individual cases as described.
    • “Resolved” includes companies that are dissolved, as well as individual cases as described.
    • “Connection” references personal/business connections that are noteworthy but do not necessarily amount to a conflict of interest in and of themselves. (Currently not populated.)
    • “Other” covers — you guessed it — other categories of potential conflicts. (Currently not populated.)
  • The date field is designed to help researchers who come back to this database on an ongoing database. Make note of the date you visited it last; the next time you come, look for any records that have been updated since then.

How you can make it better

Is this database useful? Let us know. Could it be better? Tell us how!

Please send us links to reporting or revelations our inventory sparks. Seeing its usefulness will help inform how we should direct our efforts to make your reporting more efficient. Any illustration that this project has legs also will help Sunlight secure the funding to keep it going.

And please, point out if you discover an active concern that should be marked as “resolved,” or a resolved concern that’s actually active. Tell us if you know about a potential conflict of interest we missed. Or perhaps there’s a whole arena of conflicts that you think we should prioritize as we continue to build this out.

We’re creating this tool for you. Please help us make it as useful as possible.

What’s next

The Sunlight Foundation will keep this project updated to reflect the changing status of any potential business, political or associated conflicts that are resolved or reopened.

We’ll also build it out to record more structural conflicts of interest among his immediate family members, and the specific instances where they play out.

Specifically, we’ll add:

  • More potential conflicts and instances as they emerge from ongoing news coverage.
  • Other Assets and Income (i.e. stocks) from Trump’s 2017 financial disclosure.
  • Liabilities from Trump’s 2017 financial disclosure.
  • A more detailed catalogue of Jared Kushner’s and Ivanka Trump’s extensive potential for conflicts of interest, given their prominent roles in the White House.

This project prioritizes the inventory’s utilitarian value for government accountability, so don’t expect bells and whistles, at least at first. Our current resource is a downloadable, open-access, view-only Google spreadsheet.

If you’d like to build visualizations or analysis, drop us a line and we’ll talk!

We’ll do as much as we can to keep the presentation highly functional for you, without detracting from our efforts to make this the most comprehensive and current inventory of concerns about presidential conflicts of interest on the web.

In the weeks ahead, look for posts and features from us. We’ll explain more of the context in which this miasma plays out. We’ll point out trends, investigate murky areas, and unpack the nesting dolls of corporate ownership to help enlighten the national conversation about presidential accountability.

What now?

Dig into the 563 active concerns we’ve catalogued so far, the 62 potential conflicts, and the 46 we’ve marked as “resolved.”

Find the instances where these potential conflicts play out. Help the nation understand what they mean for our democracy.

And please, keep in touch.