In a frantic bit of cleanup on Tuesday, Donald Trump’s transition team downplayed what appeared to be a pay-for-play scheme surrounding the upcoming inauguration.
A spokesperson for the president-elect said that, contrary to reports, Trump’s two eldest sons were not offering access to their father during next month’s inauguration weekend in exchange for $1 million donations to conservation charities. The foundation that had cooked up the scheme (which included hunting and fishing expeditions) was just floating an “initial” concept of an idea, the spokesperson said. Beyond that, neither Eric Trump nor Donald Trump Jr. were “involved in any capacity,” nor was the president-elect “aware of the event or the details pertaining to it.’’
Nevertheless, the episode still rubbed government ethicists the wrong way, and not just because Eric Trump remained on the board of directors of the charity behind the proposal. For these ethicists, the concern is that the Jan. 20 Trump inauguration writ large has become a vehicle for those willing to pay the right price to gain access to the top echelons of the incoming administration.
Even as the conservation charity idea appeared to crash before takeoff, the official inaugural committee was offering an underwriter benefits package that allowed well-heeled donors an audience with the president and his team. For $1 million, for example, a donor received benefits including access to an “exclusive event” with Cabinet appointees and House and Senate leadership, along with an “intimate dinner” with Vice-President-elect Mike Pence. Even those just willing to dole out $250,000, the gift was “an intimate policy discussion and dinner with select Cabinet appointees” among other goodies, including an opportunity to meet “the ladies of the first families” and “an elegant dinner in Washington, D.C., with special appearances” by the Trumps and Pences. Full article here