During the President-elect’s term in office, The Trump Organization should donate its profits to the US Government.
It’s simply about alignment of interests. For months, there has been talk of blind trusts, divestitures, and executive privilege. It seems clear that because of the sheer size and 2015 total revenue of The Trump Organization, a blind trust would be nearly impossible to implement. Perhaps more importantly, the Trump name is so intertwined with the strategy of the company that it is virtually impossible for management or governance of the organization to be truly detached from association with the President-elect. Any reasonably-timed divestiture would be extremely difficult given the illiquidity of the Trump Organization assets. And maintaining business ownership in over two dozen countries while stepping into the Oval Office does not satisfy the terms laid out in the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution nor should it satisfy the American public. The Office of Government Ethics has recently commented on this familial transfer of management authority to the President-elect’s sons, and has opined that this does not eliminate conflicts of interest under 18 U.S.C. § 208.
So it dawned on me that there is one very simple solution. During the President-elect’s term(s) in office, The Trump Organization could pass all of its profits (including ongoing profits from deals made while in office) to the United States Government. Specifically, to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which administers a variety of benefits and services that provide financial and other forms of assistance to Servicemembers, Veterans, their dependents and survivors. This strategic transfer of funds would create a shared interest. It would serve the President-elect’s political interests as expressed in his plan for VA reform, help millions of Americans who fight for our country overseas, and ultimately benefit taxpayers.
While The Trump Organization is private and is therefore not subject to public scrutiny, the President-elect could also decide to have the company adhere to more rigorous public company disclosure and reporting requirements. This would include the disclosure of financial statements and annual 10-K reports discussing the state of the company, allowing regulators to view quarterly reports and audits as if The Trump Organization were a publicly traded company. Doing so could satisfy concerns about corporate governance, partnerships, accounting methods, and the veracity of profits which are being distributed to the government as part of the above plan.
With this, in one stroke of a pen, a major portion of Trump’s conflicts of interest could be solved. Aligning interests by channeling his company’s profits to an important government entity should at least assuage the public’s (and The Office of Government Ethics’) worry that his companies may profit or benefit from policy decisions while in office.
While still imperfect, I feel this idea has merit. Of course, any efforts to address such conflicts of interest require a willingness by the President-elect to adhere to a strong code of ethics, given that laws themselves cannot force absolute compliance. I would be most interested to hear what others have to say — especially the President-elect.
Hannah Levien contributed to this article.
Moving forward, I will pay for the news I value.
Like many, I often find ways to log in from another device when I’m notified that my “ten free articles for the month have already been viewed.” Even worse, I’ll often google the headline of the article to get around the paywall entirely. And occasionally I’ve “borrowed” a friend’s logins for a premium service. Everyone does it, don’t they? No longer, for me at least. In this new era of misinformation, an era where we need our journalists and our media to be the Fourth Estate they were intended to be, I will pay for the privilege of fine reporting and journalistic integrity. We all should.
In my opinion, there are two sides to that bargain. I am paying so that news organizations will have more resources to deploy toward solid, hard-hitting journalism. If and when I feel they are letting their readers (me) down, rolling over on issues they should be digging into, I will now have a right to complain and I will do so loudly.
When I’m freeriding, or sometimes even “stealing” my news — what gives me the right to complain about its accuracy or integrity?
These days, it doesn’t feel right to be shouting at CNN reporters on my computer screen — streaming a clip while I’m not paying for a cable subscription at home. It feels dishonest to find a way to get that eleventh NYT article for free despite having reached my free quota for the month.
Likewise, other outlets like The Guardian, while not (yet) enforcing paywalls, are asking readers to donate if they like the content they are getting. I will, because I do.
I’ve now composed a list of all the news outlets I value, and have either subscribed, donated, or found a way to sponsor.
PS — to my journalist friends out there, I’m sorry, but at least I’m coming clean now? Better late than never, right?
A stunning outcome. We moved to the US just as this election cycle was beginning, and got involved with pent-up enthusiasm after years of living in countries without their own democratic process. I’m extremely sad that our candidate didn’t win, and I’m sure there will be much uncertainty for quite some time. The voters have spoken. My takeaway on this exhausted evening is that our nation is divided far more than I had imagined — more than almost anyone imagined. Yet this election has inspired me to do more, to be more active in our communities, to be better. A divide this great is simply not tolerable. A deep distrust of our institutions, our law enforcement, our journalists, and our fellow citizens, is just unacceptable. I certainly don’t know how to fix these problems and the many others we face. But I’m now determined to be even more involved, to learn more, and to help wherever possible. I hope others feel the same inspiration. To everyone who campaigned, who worked so hard, who inspired others to give their time and energy, thank you.