Common Cause filed a complaint with the office of Government Ethics and the U.S. Department of State calling for an investigation into the latter’s publication of an article promoting Mar-a-Lago, which the article refers to as the ‘Winter White House’ owned and operated by President Trump as a private club.
The ethics complaint concerns an article the State Department’s ShareAmerica website published profiling the history of the Trump property and describing the Palm Beach club—which doubled its initiation fee to $200,000 after his election—in glowing terms. The article was subsequently circulated by multiple U.S. embassies, including on the website of the U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom and on the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Albania. Federal ethics rules prohibit government employees from endorsing “any product, service or enterprise.”
“The State Department article promoting Mar-a-Lago constitutes a misuse and abuse of taxpayer dollars that clearly warrants an investigation. This Administration’s refusal to set clear boundaries between the business of the American people and the businesses of Donald Trump has metastasized into the federal agencies,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Not only has the president turned his so-called ‘Winter White House’ into a set for a reality TV show with an audience made up of those willing to pay $200,000 to the Trump Organization, he has set an example himself untethered from ethical standards, beginning with his refusal to release his taxes as every U.S. President has done for the past four decades. It falls to the ethics offices of these agencies to enforce our ethics laws and standards, even if it means running afoul of the White House.”
The complaint calls on the Department of State and Office of Government Ethics to conduct an investigation and to take disciplinary action to hold all responsible federal government employees accountable for this clear misuse and abuse of taxpayer funds.