Trump personally pockets club membership fees
McClatchy, July 7, 2017
Even as he serves as president, Donald Trump earns a tidy sum — tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars — every time a new member joins one of his tony golf clubs.
Whether it’s the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship starts Monday; the club outside the nation’s capital, where the president often spends time over the weekend; the historic Mar-a-Lago Club; or one of his other exclusive addresses, each collects a hefty initiation fee from new members — up to $450,000 per person, with annual dues on top of that.
Trump has benefited greatly from these initiation fees for years. Even back when it was typical for membership fees to take the form of refundable deposits, he broke with the norm for such clubs by taking the money for himself, according to documents and interviews.
In 2004, Trump had access to nearly $100 million from refundable fees from members at just four clubs, including Mar-a-Lago, the resort in Palm Beach, Fla. that Trump has dubbed the Winter White House, according to a personal financial statement written by his accountant that year.
The president put in place unusual policies that allowed him to keep the high one-time fees charged to new members and put language in his club rules that allowed him to spend the money on anything he wanted.
Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his businesses while president, including his nearly 20 clubs across the globe, has been sharply criticized by ethics experts who cite a litany of potential problems: Will the president’s proposals on taxes, environmental rules and labor regulations benefit his bottom line? Are members and their guests gaining unfair access to the president? Is the president violating the Constitution by accepting money from foreign officials? Do local and state leaders feel pressure to make decisions that could favor Trump’s businesses?
“I don’t think we have anything to compare this to in presidential history,” said John Wonderlich, executive director for the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.
In the more than five months he has been in office, Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago on 25 days and his golf clubs on 36 days, sometimes more than once a day, according to a compilation of information released by the White House.
The visits have led to a flurry of publicity that could boost the clubs’ popularity and revenue, fueling questions among experts as to whether he is using the presidency to make more money.
Trump listed more than $550 million in assets in golf clubs and resorts, according to a personal financial disclosure released last month.
Mar-a-Lago saw profits climb nearly 25 percent in 2016 while Trump was a presidential candidate, though overall income at his golf clubs declined 6 percent, according to his personal financial disclosure statement released last month. Immediately following his election, Mar-a-Lago doubled its initiation fee to $200,000.
“Just about all publicity is good,” said Laurence Hirsh, president of Golf Property Analysts and a former president of the Society of Golf Appraisers. “As he continues to visit his clubs, he raises their profile and potentially enhances their business.”
There’s no doubt that Trump’s clubs are among the biggest moneymakers in his vast empire. He listed more than $325 million in income from golf clubs and resorts, according to his recent disclosure statement. Trump National Doral, a golf resort in Miami, was his largest source of revenue with $116 million in income.
Before he was sworn into office, Trump eschewed calls to fully separate from his business interests and instead placed his holdings in a trust.
An attorney who specializes in financial matters said Trump retains the legal power to revoke the trust. The trust, which was to include all Trump’s businesses, is designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit,” which he can receive at any time without the public’s knowledge, the attorney said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged in April that Trump could receive the money while president.
Trump’s name adorns 18 exclusive clubs around the globe, including facilities in Scotland and Ireland; three of them are in Florida. Ten of them are private clubs — including the one 30 minutes outside Charlotte in Mooresville, N.C. — where only those who are hand-chosen can be become members and use the top-tier features, which can include golf, pools, tennis, basketball, fitness centers, dining and overnight accommodations. The Trump memberships provide “a lifestyle of uncompromising personalized service, luxurious amenities and attention to detail that create a lifetime of memories,” the Trump Organization boasts on the club websites.
Members of Trump clubs are required to pay initiation fees — a one-time charge for joining, as is common at clubs — as well as thousands of dollars in annual dues; dues vary, but amounted to $25,000 at one club and $14,000 at another. None of the fees are returned, even with a member’s resignation.
Trump is the first president in decades to refuse to release his taxes, which would show what he is making from his clubs.
AL comment: Donald Trump – Thief. Donald Trump – Thief. Donald Trump – Thief.
Здешние политиканы, «эксперты», подконтрольные ЦРУ СМ»И» нахваливают псевдодемократическую, якобы процветающую Америку.
Те, кто любит «наших американских (государственных) партнеров», «забывают» о грязных, злых уродах США. О таких, как коварный и крайне опасный мошенник, расист, лжец, неофашист и убийца Дональд Трамп. И о таких, как порочный Конгресс, кровавые милитаристы США, нацистские ФБР — ЦРУ, лживые американские СМ”И”…
Арнольд Локшин, политэмигрант из США