This Week in Conflicts: President Trump Throws a $100K Campaign Event, More Hatch Act Complaints and a Challenge to Trump’s D.C. Hotel’s Liquor License


This week, President Donald Trump throws a campaign event at his Washington D.C. hotel, an ethics groups files more Hatch Act complaints and a group of citizens files a complaint challenging the president’s “good character,” questioning his ability to maintain a liquor license in Washington D.C.

Conflicts of Interest Information Redacted

Documents released by the Federal Trade Commission related to the new head of the department’s consumer protection bureau were heavily redacted, with “virtually no information” included except email headers and footers, according to the Intercept.

The information was released after Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer advocacy group, submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the agency. According to the Intercept, the request was an attempt to gain a better understanding of Andrew Smith’s, the head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, past work. Smith spent four years working at the law firm Covington & Burling representing corporate clients that include Equifax, Uber and Facebook.

The FOIA resulted in 495 pages being released. The request asked for “all documents related to Smith’s financial disclosure and potential conflicts of interest, as well as how the agency would ensure Smith’s recusal from matters involving former clients,” according to the Intercept. The agency cited exemptions under the FOIA related to inter-agency memos and protection of trade secrets and commercial or financial information that is confidential.

“Rather than release the documents that would show just how he will remove himself from real or perceived conflicts of interests when these companies are investigated by the agency, the FTC has chosen instead to send a mix of documents that quite literally say nothing,” Remington Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen told the Intercept.

Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C.

D.C. Liquor License Challenge

An effort to challenge President Trump’s “good character” and ability to have a liquor license at his D.C. hotel is on hold for now.

The challenge was brought to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board of the District of Columbia by a group of local citizens in June. The complaint discussed ethical breaches and the admissions from Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney.

Joan Goldfrank, a former magistrate judge and one of the residents who signed the complaint told the New York Times, “this is such a local thing. You want the kids in this city to understand that no matter who you are, if you get something that’s granted by the government, if you have a privilege, that you have to respect it and honor it.”

As the New York Times reports,  “none of it had much of an effect. In the end, the board unanimously declined to pursue the complaint, punting a decision to review the case until next spring. The group also said it would review a claim that the hotel had served alcohol to a minor.”

President Donald Trump and staff on Air Force One. (Image Credit: The White House)

More Hatch Act Complaints

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington (CREW), an ethics group, is asking the federal government to look into whether or not senior White House administration officials have violated the Hatch Act.

The Washington-based group alleges top administration officials are violating the Act by using government resources to travel and participate in official events that support political candidates. Last month, CREW filed different Hatch Act complaints against Trump Administration officials.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are exempt from the Hatch Act but CREW is questioning whether these speeches and visits are mixing official business with campaign business. If they are, the Act requires the campaign to reimburse the travel costs to the federal government.

“The White House’s shocking admission that government officials are using purportedly official events as coordinated political photo opportunities to boost partisan candidates takes the Trump Administration’s disdain for the line between taxpayer-funded government work and politics to a new level,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Trump hotel Washington D.C. (Image Credit: Flickr user Maxence)

$100,000 Fundraiser

President Trump held a campaign fundraiser this week at his D.C. Hotel and the cost to get in was $100,000, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

“Following the roundtable event, where Mr. Trump will deliver remarks behind closed doors, guests can pay $70,000 per couple to attend a photo opportunity with the president,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Couples can also pay $35,000 to attend a larger dinner with Mr. Trump, where he will also speak.  (Rest assured: Donors who pay the $100,000 can stay for the photos and dinner without opening up their wallets a second time.)”

The money raised is for both the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee.

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing all of President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as president of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news and explore our database. If you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking, please email us to contribute to the project.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.