USA Today did not say the Dummkopf-in-Chief is a crooked crook who is crookedly parlaying potential access into cash because he’s a crook. The article clearly states that he is not breaking the law. But. You know.
Dozens of lobbyists, contractors and others who make their living influencing the government pay President Trump’s companies for membership in his private golf clubs, a status that can put them in close contact with the president, a USA TODAY investigation found.
Members of the clubs Trump has visited most often as president — in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia — include at least 50 executives whose companies hold federal contracts and 21 lobbyists and trade group officials. Two-thirds played on one of the 58 days the president was there, according to scores they posted online.
The review shows that, for the first time in U.S. history, wealthy people with interests before the government have a chance for close and confidential access to the president as a result of payments that enrich him personally. It is a view of the president available to few other Americans.
Members of Trump’s clubs pay initiation fees that can exceed $100,000, plus thousands more in annual dues to his companies, held in a trust for his benefit.
The arrangement is legal, and members said they did not use the clubs to discuss government business. Nonetheless, ethics experts questioned whether it’s appropriate for a sitting president to collect money from lobbyists and others who spend their days trying to shape federal policy or win government business.
“I think we’re all in new territory,” said Walter Shaub, who recently resigned as director of the Office of Government Ethics after repeated clashes with the White House. “We never thought we’d see anyone push the outer limits in this way.”
As an aside, this article is what investigative journalism looks like.
USA TODAY set out to identify as many members of Trump’s private clubs as possible. We found more than 4,500 names by scouring social media posts, news stories and a public website golfers use to track their handicaps.
Our reporters then reviewed many hundreds of members’ names and used information available online and public documents such as lobbying registrations, corporate records, property deeds and medical licenses to determine the members’ jobs and if they make their living trying to influence the federal government or win contracts with it. Reporters also interviewed dozens of members, though many more declined to comment.
We prioritized reviewing and interviewing members at clubs where the President has spent the most time since taking office. Those are in Bedminster, N.J., Washington’s suburbs in Virginia; and in and around Palm Beach, Fla.