If you pay a $200,000 initiation fee to the company Donald Trump owns, you too can have access most weekends to the president and his top officials. As an alternative, your organization could cut a $150,000 check to bring in a couple of hundred people who will have a chance to schmooze with the president and Cabinet officials. Foreign moguls and dignitaries welcome.
This isn't Bill Clinton's Lincoln Bedroom. This isn't the Clinton Foundation during Hillary's reign at the State Department. This is Mar-a-Lago.
Trump, for the fourth weekend in the past five, has gone down to his Florida resort, and once again he is mingling with guests. The Palm Beach Post reported:
President Donald Trump mingled with guests outside a charity ball at his Mar-a-Lago Club on Saturday night.
As attendees danced inside the ballroom where the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute held its gala, the president was spotted nearby, shaking hands and talking with club members and guests.
Earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also took a few moments from high-level meetings to greet guests at the estate.
Past weekends have also seen the president schmoozing with people who have paid to be at his resort. Of course, Trump and Sessions are free to go where they want, but consider the dynamic they have created here.
Access to the president and his Cabinet are incredibly valuable. This is why companies spend millions a year on lobbying. This is why President Obama's golfing buddy Robert Wolf was able to set up a powerful consultancy in the Obama years. This is why Indian tribes paid Jack Abramoff so much money.
In those cases, it was associates of the president who sold access to the president. With Mar-a-Lago, it's the president himself profiting from access to him. Trump refused to sell his company or unload his properties. While he has given up management of them, he still owns them. That means he still profits when someone books a gala there or becomes a member. And if you've followed the lobbying game in Washington, you know that special interests are likely shelling out the cash to get a chance to be close to the president — not necessarily because they expect Trump to reward them as a quid pro quo for their membership, but because joining Mar-a-Lago is the best way to get close to him.
It's a nice setup for those who want some government favor and can afford a six-figure check. And it's a nice setup for Donald Trump.
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's commentary editor, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.