This Week in Conflicts: Failing at Profiting off the Presidency, Trump’s Scottish Golf Resorts Losing Millions and Kushner May Not be Paying Income Tax


President Donald Trump golfing in February 2006. (Image Credit: Flickr user Steve Jurvetson)

This week, an investigation from Forbes looks at how President Donald Trump’s business is being impacted by his service in the Oval Office, the New York Times reveals that Jared Kushner may have paid little or no income tax from 2009 to 2016 and the Trump Organization has yet to turn a profit at its golf courses in Scotland.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. (Image Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Trying But Not Profiting Off the Presidency

In a new story,  Forbes details how President Trump’s businesses have been impacted by his time in the Oval Office.

According to Forbes, “net operating income dropped 27% between 2014, the year before Trump announced his run for president, and 2017, his first year in the White House.”

This loss has bumped President Trump 138 spots lower on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. His net worth, according to the calculation from Forbes, dropped to $3.1 billion in the last two years from $4.5 million in 2015.

Forbes reports there are three factors at play causing the decline:

  • Deeper reporting into his company’s details, that show some of what has been reported was incorrect
  • The impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar stores
  • The impact of the role Trump as president has on the Trump brand

The impact Trump the president has on the brand goes beyond politics. For example, revenue at Trump’s U.S. golf courses fell around 9% in 2017. “Guests now endure metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs. ‘It’s not a country club experience,’ a source familiar with Trump’s golf business says. ‘It was captivating at first, but it has become tiresome.’”

In a recent Trump, Inc. podcast episode,  one of the Forbes’ reporters behind the story discusses how President Trump could have saved millions.

Trump International Golf Links, Scotland. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Alanatabz)

Scottish Golf Course Losing Money

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that President Trump is losing millions at his Scottish golf resorts and has yet to make a profit.

“His two resorts posted a combined loss of $6.07 million in 2017, according to the latest filings in the United Kingdom,” the Los Angeles Times is reporting. “Of that, Trump’s flagship Turnberry 800-acre resort on Scotland’s west coast lost $4.42 million, the fourth consecutive annual deficit since he bought the club in 2014.”

Eric Trump, President Trump’s second oldest child and one of the trustee’s of the Trump Organization, called the Scottish golf resorts, “competitive and challenging, factors that can be heightened by adverse weather conditions.” He also blamed “economic downturn” in Scotland and the crash in oil prices as a cause for less local spending in the area.

Despite the losses, the Trump Organization is planning on spending close to $200 million to expand the Aberdeen resort. The expansion has to be approved by local officials and would include 500 additional homes, 50 vacation cottages and sports and retail facilities.

U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Nikki Haley meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017. (Image Credit: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

Nikki Haley Travel

A day before Nikki Haley announced her resignation as the U.S. United Nations Ambassador, an ethics, watchdog group asked for an investigation into travel she took last year.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the State Department’s inspector general to look into seven flights Haley and her husband took last year. The flights were on a luxury plane owned by businessmen from South Carolina, where she was formerly governor.

According to the Economic Times, “Haley, on a filing required of government employees, disclosed the flights from New York to South Carolina and Washington and estimated the highest value at $1,066, based on the cost of commercial first-class tickets.”

The watchdog group says the estimated cost of the flights is low and the value would more likely be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, speaking with U.S. military leaders after arriving in Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2017. (Image Credit: DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Kushner Not Paying Income Taxes?

According to the New York Times, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House Adviser “appears to have paid almost no federal income taxes” for several years.

The information comes from confidential financial documents reviewed by the New York Times.

The investigation reveals, “his low tax bills are the result of a common tax-minimizing maneuver that, year after year, generated millions of dollars in losses for Mr. Kushner, according to the documents. But the losses were only on paper — Mr. Kushner and his company did not appear to actually lose any money. The losses were driven by depreciation, a tax benefit that lets real estate investors deduct a portion of the cost of their buildings from their taxable income every year.”

According to the news story, nothing suggests Kushner or Kushner Companies broke the law and a spokesperson for his attorney said Kushner “paid all taxes due.”

The story includes a step-by-step explanation about how it worked and discusses how Presiden Trump “expanded many of the benefits enjoyed by real estate investors, allowing them to reap even larger deductions,” when revisions were made to the nation’s tax code. 

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 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, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

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.