Donald Trump

Yes, We Should Worry About Donald Trump's Business Conflicts of Interests—and His Whole Approach to the Interaction Between Government and Business

The president-elect was a crony capitalist businessman. Now he's set to become a crony capitalist politician.

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Gage Skidmore

As a real estate developer, Donald Trump made and sought special deals designed to use the power of government to improve his personal bottom line.

The first building project he ever developed, the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan, was completed using a multi-decade tax abatement obtained using his father's connections. This was not a broad-based tax cut so much as a state-granted subsidy that granted Trump's project the financial wherewithal to proceed. In 1994, Trump proposed that the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut, become a partner with him on a $350 million theme park project, allowing him to get access to land by declaring a number of businesses as condemned properties. Over the course of his career as a developer, he repeatedly pressured the government to use eminent domain to clear private property owners out of the way, including one instance in 1994 in which he requested that the government kick an Atlantic City widow out of her home in order to replace it with a limousine parking lot. While campaigning for president, he aggressively defended the use of eminent domain, calling it a "wonderful thing," and describing it as necessary for construction projects that create jobs.

For Trump, this is not merely a business strategy. It amounts to a working theory of how government and the private sector should interact. And it is one that should worry anyone concerned about maintaining a fair and proper division between the state and the private sector.

Because what's evident in Trump's background is that he is both a believer in and practitioner of a very direct and open kind of crony capitalism, in which government officials grant certain businesses favorable treatment, deciding which projects to approve and which to deny. He doesn't believe that the government's role is to set clear ground rules and let market competition work things out. Instead, he thinks that the government should work directly with private interests, picking winners and losers—and that his own projects, in particular, deserve to be on the winning side.

That is a disturbing enough belief when held by a powerful private developer seeking to curry favor with the government. It is cause for further alarm now that Trump sits on the other side of the table, controlling the levers of executive power, even as he continues to maintain a vast global real estate empire.

As president of the United States, Trump will have unique global political influence, and it is already apparent that Trump will use it to personally advantage his own business interests. At the end of last year, Trump lost a lengthy legal battle over the placement of a wind farm within view of a golf course resort he developed in Scotland. Since then, the issue has been a recurring obsession; Trump has tweeted about it 60 times. Now, as president-elect, Trump is continuing to raise the issue: According to The New York Times, in a post-election meeting with British politician Nigel Farage, Trump pressed the foreign official to oppose the sort of wind farms he unsuccessfully fought as private developer.

All else being equal, this is a fairly small issue; Trump lost the legal fight against the Scottish wind farms. But Trump similarly mixed his private business with his public aspirations on the campaign trail as well, hawking Trump branded products like wine and steaks—some of which were long discontinued—at a bizarre victory speech during the primary, and dangling the possibility of making a major announcement about his position on birtherism to advertise the opening of his new D.C. hotel.

All of this is indicative of Trump's extreme comfort with mixing political power with personal, private business interests. Trump is now arguably the most powerful and influential politician on the planet. And as The New York Times recently reported, Trump-branded properties now exist all over the world, with multiple major projects in various stages of development, often in countries where large developments rely on government cooperation in order to succeed.

Trump's seems to believe that this is a non-issue. He recently told The New York Times that he believes that, regarding the mixing of his private projects and his public role, "the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can't have a conflict of interest." Given his history, though, it is not unreasonable to worry that he might seek to use his political position to advance his business interests.

Moreover, it's not necessary for Trump to actively pursue his own private interests via public office; even if Trump scrupulously avoids doing so, the possibility remains that foreign interests will attempt to curry favor with the American president by giving special, favorable treatment to his businesses. This is already visible on a small scale with Trump's newly opened hotel in Washington, D.C. As an Asian diplomat told The Washington Post, "Why wouldn't I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, 'I love your new hotel!' Isn't it rude to come to his city and say, 'I am staying at your competitor?'" It is more than plausible that even in the absence of any action on Trump's part, his new hotel—and other properties across the globe as well—will benefit simply from the fact that he is the president. The government of Bahrain has already decided to hold a national holiday celebration at Trump's D.C. hotel. Is this a coincidence? Or an effort to curry favor with the incoming president? It's impossible to tell.

And in that respect, despite Trump's claims to the contrary, the law may not be on his side. A little-known provision of the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause prohibits U.S. politicians from receiving gifts from foreign officials. The clause is rarely if ever invoked, but as Adam Liptak recently reported, it is at least conceivable that some of Trump's dealings could run afoul of its rules. In particular, the state-owned Bank of China occupies space in one of Trump's buildings; when the lease is renegotiated, any payment above the market rate could be in violation of the constitution.

The Wall Street Journal, among others, has called on the president-elect to liquidate his holdings and place them in a blind trust, and Trump initially resisted. But he may move to separate himself from these conflicts after all. He tweeted this morning that on December 15 he would hold a press conference to explain how he would leave his "great business in total," though he did not detail any particular steps that he would take.

But even if Trump completely divests himself of his personal business conflicts, we should still be worried about the theory of government-business interaction under which he operates. That's because Trump appears to believe that the job of both businessman and politicians is to work in partnership—to make deals that benefit the political and private sector operators and insiders on both sides.

Indeed, it looks more than likely that this is what happened this week with the Carrier air conditioning manufacturer in Indiana. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to move 2,000 jobs from the U.S. to Mexico. Today, however, the company said that it had reached an agreement with Trump to keep about 1,000 of those job in the country. It's not clear what Trump's role in brokering the deal was, or whether any special treatment was involved, but Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (who, as the outgoing governor of Indiana, may have been the key player) are expected to appear at the factory tomorrow to announce specifics.

Even if there was no overt favoritism or special privilege, the move is indicative of Trump's approach to freely mixing business and politics, his insistence on casting himself as the critical dealmaker, and the likelihood of government playing favorites in the Trump era. As The Washington Post reports, the company that owns Carrier separately owns other companies that do business with the federal government. The owners may be seeking to curry favor with the incoming president now by giving him a political victory he can tout as he transitions into office.

This sort of arrangement is both unseemly and dangerous to prosperity in the long term. It creates incentives for other businesses to threaten to move in order to receive inducements to stay. As University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales pointed out earlier this year in a column on Trump's cronyist instincts, it also muddles the distinction between pro-market and pro-business (Trump is the latter, not the former).

Perhaps worst of all, it creates a system in which corporations succeed and fail not based on their value in the marketplace, but based on their facility at making friends in the government, and friendly deals with the political class. It is an approach built on harnessing political power for special private gain, and for directing the economy based on elite political whims rather than consumer-driven market forces. That is the approach that Trump took to building his empire a businessman. And it looks increasingly as if it is an approach he will bring to his public dealings from his new perch in the highest office in the land.

NEXT: You Don't Have to Be British to Be Extremely Worried About U.K.'s New Surveillance Law

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  1. Ah, good… Goldstein has put up a new article. Let the two minutes hate begin.

    1. I thought the whole point of Goldstein was that he never actually spoke. Anything bad that happened in the world would be attributed to him as something he had actually ‘planned’. and all his statements & presumed beliefs were delivered second-hand.

      Like the way the left treats the Kochs, for instance.

      1. Not speaking is awfully close to putting up an article most people won’t read.

        1. but isn’t that because we’ve read it before?

          Its also hard to elicit shock and fear from people about FutureTrump’s “Crony Capitalism” when Shikha has insisted that he’s also going to start Nuclear War. Why worry? We’re all going to die anyway.

          1. I’ll let the comments themselves speak to how the two minutes hate is going.

            1. Well, you’ve always got John

              I think suderman should stick to Obamacare, or other specific-policy analysis. He’s good at that stuff. Hysterical hypothetical Trump-Doom is more Shikha’s core-competence.

              1. Trump is going to be very easy to defend because his critics are all so emotional and stupid.

                1. Trump is going to be very easy to defend because his critics are all so emotional and stupid.

                  I think that’s a good point.

                  its sort of like the left’s insistence about “Campus Rape Culture” and how it has probably reduced the attention that *real* rapes receive. Thousands of people and mountains of resources are devoted to prosecuting/investigating bullshit Title-IX violations and drunk-sex. What’s left for “real-rape” gets a fraction of the attention.

                  Trump’s real-faults will similarly be buried underneath mountains of hysterical-over-reaction of other, mostly-bullshit worries that either haven’t yet come to pass… or aren’t quite the unique-to-him problems that people pretend.

                  The ‘Crying Wolf’ accusation isn’t suggesting that “wolves aren’t real”; its suggesting that you’re wasting energy on imagined fears rather than material ones.

            2. I don’t hate you SugarFree. But I do hate diabeetus.

            3. crony capitalism, in which government officials grant certain businesses favorable treatment

              Right. Blame the guy using the law in his favor, NOT the lawgivers.

              Dumbass.

  2. This country is a militaristic democracy-in-name-only with bought off elections where the middle class has been told by rich, right-wing media interests that the way they can improve their lives is by blaming their problems on the microscopic amount of money that this government spends on feeding and housing poor immigrants. We’re living in the Evil Empire.

    1. Please don’t feed the troll.

        1. ^Has sexual relations with Furby and Teddy Ruxpin dolls

          1. “Has sexual relations with Furby and Teddy Ruxpin dolls”

            And they feel dirty afterwards.

        2. I am so tired of Pinochet and his Detractors! Oh it’s you, racist.

    2. You can always leave, unlike in the North Korean or Cuban worker’s paradise.

      1. You can always leave

        sigh

    3. I was just thinking that in the interest of bias equity, Trump should announce that Fox will start receiving public funding.

  3. Sorry, but I’m still drowning in salty ham tears from the election. There will be plenty of time to rip into Trump after Obama leaves office.

    1. Other than the satisfaction of watching liberal Hollywood elitists, who most definitely will have their taxes decreased under a Trump administration, suffer can you tell us all the ways the Trumpster is going to transform your life?

      1. His presidency, like Obama’s, probably won’t have much direct impact on my life. However, his Treasury Secretary pick is talking about “simplifying the tax code”. Everyone talks about that, and it probably won’t line up with what I would prefer (flat tax). But *if* they manage to actually simplify the tax code and lower my taxes, that will have a positive impact. Transformative? Probably not.

        1. Do that and kill off the global warming regulations and things will be a hell of a lot better.

          1. A flat tax is one of those things that I truly believe would be wildly popular if actually implemented, but which stands almost no chance because of the army of special interests that would line up to oppose and demonize it.

            1. Supposedly Americans spend as many hours doing personal income tax (personally and paying professionals) as 3M full time jobs — 6B hours.

              I figure a flat tax with no exemptions, or mortgage only, would put 1M of those parasites out of work and make everybody else’s life a shitload happier and less stressful. The rich would still pay accountants for something, but who cares.

              1. Supposedly Americans spend as many hours doing personal income tax (personally and paying professionals) as 3M full time jobs — 6B hours.

                I get it. You are against employment for poor, hapless tax accountants and lawyers. You are one mean, nasty SOB!!

            2. We have got to stop taxing oversees income. It is the most counterproductive and mean spirited thing. When every other country in the world sees its corporations set up foreign operations, the profits from those often go back to the home country. Not the US. Since we tax the living shit out of any money made overseas that is returned to this country but don’t touch it if it stays there, American companies never bring their overseas profits back to invest in the US.

              That is some genius tax code writing. Isn’t it?

            3. I think that pretty much everyone agrees that a flat tax would essentially shutter the entire Federal government overnight. That may be an admirable goal, personally I’d be for it (the shuttering, not the tax), but how much should a single mother of 2 be taxed? I only ask, because that will be the same tax paid by Donald Trump. It’s appealing, but in even a Republican getting the majority to vote themselves a tax increase is right up there with the existence of Unicorns statistically speaking.

              As soon as most flat-taxers hear this, they generally start back pedaling on start talking about carve outs or minimum thresholds, but at the end of the day when you start going that route eventually you end up at the same destination only with a lot of far more fucked over poor people. That isn’t necessarily a certain outcome by any means, but it will be generally true that the poor would be hurt the most by such a tax scheme while those of means would pay their yearly tax in less than a few minutes worth of work.

              1. *but in even a Republic…not Republican. Ugh. It’s still terrible structure, but you get the idea I hope.

              2. minimum thresholds

                What’s wrong with this? Maybe $15,000 per head. Then 18% of everything after that is the tax rate.

                What’s wrong with you paying the same tax RATE as Donald Trump? You special or something?

                Dumbass.

                1. There was some analysis of some flat tax proposal with “prebate” checks mailed out monthly to cover taxes for some poverty line multiple. It came out you’d need a 23% rate on everything, and if you exempted houses, it would have to be 30%. That’s just too damned high to be acceptable. But I don’t remember what the flat tax was supposed to replace; maybe more than just personal income tax.

                  Federal, state, and local governments spend around $8T a year. If there are 125M families in the country, that comes out to around $64K per family per year. How much of that do you want to get from the flat tax? Even 10% is $500 a month, and you know it will be more than 10%.

                  1. I believe you mean “fair tax” i.e. a national sales tax.

                  2. “some flat tax proposal with “prebate” checks mailed out monthly”

                    IF we’re going to have some kind of tax system that requires the government to mail back some money, monthly payments are much more sensible than yearly.

                    When people get a huge sum of money once a year, they are probably more likely to blow it on stupid shit. When I worked at a factory, half the plant would spend the month of March boasting about the TVs, video game systems, and cars (with more money owed, of course) that they bought with their tax returns. If the amount were spread out over the entire year, they would be more likely to save it, pay bills, or otherwise put it to a more prudent use that will make them better off in the long run.

                    1. Holy crap. how much did they withhold?

                  3. I’ve seen similar analysis too. I think think this gets to the heart of the flat-tax problem too: when someone proposes a flat tax, the suggested rate isn’t NEARLY high enough to replace our current tax rates, and the difference between the two isn’t addressed at all. What’s actually being proposed is a massive tax cut, and it’s being sold as a budget-neutral simplification of the tax code.

                    If someone wants to lower taxes, let’s talk about lowering taxes in an honest, open debate.

                2. Rate? Are the rich’s votes given more weight? Poll tax or GTFO.

            4. Even if a flat tax was imposed today, it would not take long before tax policies regressed back to what we have now.

      2. american socialist|11.30.16 @ 2:56PM|#
        “Other than the satisfaction”

        Fuck off, asswipe.

        1. Why are you so angry?

      3. Other than the satisfaction of watching liberal Hollywood elitists…suffer

        How exactly are they going to suffer in any substantive way? These are people who think staying in a Comfort Inn means they’ve hit rock-bottom economically and have no problem spending more money in one year on coke and heroin than most of the actual working class will ever see in their lifetime.

        The fuckers won’t even move to Canada or Mexico to at least show a scintilla of principle. If there’s ever a class that actually deserves to be targeted for coercive retribution, its the Hollywood Claque.

  4. Moreover, it’s not necessary for Trump to actively pursue his own private interests via public office; even if Trump scrupulously avoids doing so, the possibility remains that foreign interests will attempt to curry favor with the American president by giving special, favorable treatment to his businesses

    Whew! It’s a good thing Troomp isn’t primarily and, nay, exclusively, in the charity & good works business, having to worry about raising funds and alms from those with questionable motives, expecting an exclusive audience after a sizeable, heartfelt donation to a worthy charity.

      1. I don’t recall, exactly. Here, would you hold this cloth and bleach for just a moment?

        1. Are you trying to subtly imply that our dear, dear author is guilty of employing an obvious double standard?

          Shocking.

          1. The dear eliter? Oh dear, shocking, shocking.

    1. Yeah I’m really not sure how any of this is avoidable if you want someone with any dealings with the private sector. The only possibility is to limit higher office to career politicians – many of whom seem to end up with millions of dollars after a few years of making $200k.

      1. Yeah I’m really not sure how any of this is avoidable if you want someone with any dealings with the private sector. The only possibility is to limit higher office to career politicians – many of whom seem to end up with millions of dollars after a few years of making $200k.

        Maybe, just maaaaybe, we could limit the power of the executive branch so that there’s little-to-no advantage created by buying presidential influence in this matter?

        …Why is everybody laughing?

        1. Yes, the only reason there are so many lobbying pigs in Washington is because the trough is so deep and full. Empty it and the pigs will leave.

      2. I don’t know, some private jobs and businesses seem much less problematic than a luxury and services tycoon. Say, an opthamologist…

        1. IS there a “you ban be wealthy but it has to be inherited or own a small business” clause to Article II of the Constitution? If not, then who the fuck cares?

        2. *Say, an opthamologist…*

          Sayyy…isn’t Bashir Assad an ophthalmologist?

      3. Congress critters were exempt from insider trading regulations until recently.

        Now they need new ways to get rich from their connections.

  5. Meet the new boss same as the old boss with a better twitter account.

  6. …the possibility remains that foreign interests will attempt to curry favor with the American president by giving special, favorable treatment to his businesses.

    Without going through a sham charitable foundation first? I don’t like the sound of that.

      1. Maybe so. But he’s still the best. Facts are facts.

      2. You didn’t actually use the word “foundation”. That’s key.

        1. Nuance, the most effective rhetorical weapon, Fist of Unskillful. The reader must draw their own conclusion by leading them to the water…

          You, OTOH, assume your alleged readership is comprised of morons can only colour by numbers. No wonder Your Angry Prostate loathes you so.

    1. Transparency that is too great and huge.

  7. I applaud the damage Trump is doing to the office, in the hope that it will cause some people to reconsider their sycophantic worshipping of politicians.

    1. why, maybe we should have some sort of founding documentation that limits power for the federal government.

    2. They’re not even reconsidering their sycophantic worshipping of Trump.

    3. That was my hope as well but we all know the Democrats are just combing their rank and file in search for their next Obama.

      It’s literally the only way they’re going to win another presidential election after the Hillary debacle.

      1. very much. who they pick will be interesting

        1. Liawatha heap big double minority victim. Garner extra sympathy. Make MSM hearts beat wildly.

      2. But where will the GOP find another Trump? Their last non-Trump line up was pretty boring and uninspiring (not to mention a bunch of Republican shitbags).

        If by 2024 both parties have nothing to offer the rubes, maybe the rubes will start to look elsewhere. But, when they look elsewhere they have to be able to find something better than Gary Johnson.

        1. i think if the gop kept bringing up that the clinton camp feared rand paul, he could do well.

        2. *But where will the GOP find another Trump? *

          There’s plenty of them, I saw at least a dozen on the stage at the RNC.

      3. If he wasn’t knee-deep in NJ politics, I would say Cory Booker, but since he has too much of a paper trail at this point I fear that it may be Kamala Harris. She fits all of their identity checkmarks and she’s a Senate novice on top of that, so she would be enough of a “blank slate” for the right voting blocs to show up.

        1. Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris gets pushed hard to run, unless she’s deemed too much of a threat for a Hillary 2020 candidacy. Keep in mind though that Obama needed his 2004 DNC speech for the press to consider him presidential material, and Harris hasn’t delivered anything of that sort yet. If nothing else, Obama is a master at working a crowd.

          1. Harris is not Obama. Harris is more like Eric Holder’s really stupid little sister. She is utterly charmless and loathsome outside of the real moonbat base.

          2. If Trump even does an average job as president, a Hillary 2020 run would be a peak derp decision for the Democrats. I can’t imagine the heads of that party being that suicidal and desperate, but they’ve surprised me before.

          3. Call me an optimist, but I don’t see “Hillary 2020” happening.

            Her health problems – which already plagued her this time around – are only going to get worse.

            And even if she did choose to run again, she’s just going to run a more corrupt campaign than the first time around.

          4. Call me an optimist, but I don’t see “Hillary 2020” happening.

            Her health problems – which already plagued her this time around – are only going to get worse.

            And even if she did choose to run again, she’s just going to run a more corrupt campaign than the first time around.

            1. I would be shocked if Hillary ran again. I’d be even more shocked if she got passed the primary. Hillary already lost to Trump, and I don’t think it’s something she wants to repeat.

    4. No they’ll just pretend like Trump invented cronyism and corporatism. Like the way Bush supposed invented dictatorial presidential powers. Many scholarly works will be produced on the topic too. It will be rather pathetic.

    5. Isn’t it supposed to be sycophantic worshipping of the office?

    6. reason libertarians are lining up to blow him. They have kneepads ready.

  8. I expect businessmen to play by the prevailing rules of the day in order to best serve their bottom line; I doubly expect it when they’ve shown no particular interest in libertarian principles.

    Reminds me of Gregg Popovich saying he doesn’t like the 3-point shot, but he’s in the business of winning basketball games.

    1. Gregg Popovich can go suck it.

      1. I agree, but I was illustrating the principle, not his SJW pants-shitting.

    2. Pop is starting to give me the impression of being the once smart uncle who has gone off the deep end spewing all kinds of gibberish and no one knows why.

      1. Stan Van Gundy’s meltdown was probably more epic than Pop’s. If I’m a fan of any team playing the Pistons, I’d be waving a giant poster of Trump’s head at him the whole game.

  9. literally can’t even.

    1. what is it youd say you do here?

      1. Give the finger to right-wingers? Highlight contradictions? Tell military personnel that– no thanks– I’m not interested in having them fight for my freedom?

        1. “Give the finger to right-wingers?

          Fuck off, asswipe.

      2. Wasn’t it obvious enough? H&R needs a resident racist that thinks foreign Chinamen are incapable of learning the Western man’s spelling and grammar.

        1. Well, to be fair, AmSock provides us with an unfettered view of the inherent evil of those who gladly suck the cock of government, and stupidly believe that there is somehow a form of it that magically produces resources it passes on to citizens WITHOUT ever using any kind of authority at all.

          You know: a moron.

    2. Yeah. Totally. Thanks Google News.

    3. Cuz so many here believed that he was?

      Take that shit to Townhall or something.

    4. “The man of the people!”

      Fuck off, asswipe

  10. Trump is going to test the limits of scandal fatigue, that’s for sure. He’s also already testing how much shit his supporters will swallow by appointing Goldman Sachs- er, excuse me, (((Goldman Sachs))) guy to the Treasury.

    1. Is working for Goldman Sachs now a crime? Maybe the guy is a crook. I honestly don’t know. But, the mere fact that he works for Goldman Sachs isn’t a crime as far as I know. And isn’t putting someone from the financial industry in at Treasury reasonable? Just exactly who do you want at Treasury, the chief diversity officer at Oberlin College?

      1. Well the former Cato CEO John Allison would have been awesome, but in any case, no I don’t think working for Goldman Sachs is disqualifying.

        But it’s hilarious how Trump and his supporters crucified Heidi Cruz for working there during the primary campaign and used that as an example of needing to drain the swamp.

        1. but in any case, no I don’t think working for Goldman Sachs is disqualifying.

          Then what is your point? And Heidi Cruz was a political hack who came up through the Bush administration and got her job at Goldman Sachs because of her political connections. And what was hilarious was for her husband, a fellow hack who came up in the Bush administration to when he wasn’t saying Jesus told us to vote for him was claiming to be Mr. Clean government.

          The criticism of Cruz wasn’t that she worked for Goldman Sachs it was how she got the job there and how both her and her husband were exactly the types of insiders they claimed to be against.

          1. It does seem like you have to have worked for GS to be put up for Treasury Secretary. I don’t get it. Surely there are other firms and other paths to learning enough to manage the Treasury.

            1. I am sure there are. And I don’t know the guy from Goldman Sachs from Job. Maybe he is the worst pick possible. If he is, then people should explain why instead of just saying “he works at Goldman Sachs” as if that in itself is an indictment.

              1. I think it’s Goldman-Sachs fatigue. Much like the fact that every justice in the SCOTUS is from either Harvard or Yale. We really need some diversity. Maybe someone from Princeton.

        2. But it’s hilarious how Trump and his supporters crucified Heidi Cruz for working there during the primary campaign

          You’d never believe John himself was one of those(gasp)

      2. Uh, did you miss Trump’s campaign?

        He attacked Cruz for getting loans from Goldman Sachs. And his wife working there.

  11. And in that respect, despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, the law may not be on his side. A little-known provision of the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause prohibits U.S. politicians from receiving gifts from foreign officials. The clause is rarely if ever invoked, but as Adam Liptak recently reported, it is at least conceivable that some of Trump’s dealings could run afoul of its rules. In particular, the state-owned Bank of China occupies space in one of Trump’s buildings; when the lease is renegotiated, any payment above the market rate could be in violation of the constitution.

    Oh for fuck’s sake Suderman, what the hell does that paragraph even mean? “Could violate the constitution”? Which part? If Trump uses the office and goes out and actively shakes down foreign governments for payoffs to his business, that would be a crime worthy of impeachment. But the idea that if the Chinese overpay his company in hopes of gaining favor, Trump is guilty of anything is absurd.

    I know it has been a tough few months for you. But just because you lost your mind this fall doesn’t excuse you not finding it again this winter.

    1. I’m sure countless times Hillary and Obama have violated the constitution. So what?

      1. Suderman seems to be saying, though his prose is so poor it is hard to tell, that any person coming from the business world is ineligible to be president unless they sell their business entirely when they take office. That is one hell of a Libertarian position.

        1. that any person coming from the business world is ineligible to be president unless they sell their business entirely when they take office.

          So, only Jesuits, Tibetan Monks, and Catholic Nuns who have taken a vow of poverty are qualified to run for and occupy elected office?

          1. Yes or professional politicians, who are to Suderman’s mind just as pure.

        2. He’s saying the expanse of Trump’s business operations is so vast that it presents new levels of opportunity for corruption. He’s not saying the possibility of corruption is somehow unique to Trump – what’s unique is the scale. And based on Trump’s history, his open willingness to engage in corruption.

      2. So Suderman, what about Feinstein and Pelosi’s wineries?

        Wow all these Democrats getting mega rich after a life in ‘public service’. Nope nothing to see here

        1. As long as your team is as bad as the other team, that’s all that matters.

    2. Honest and nonjudgmental question for you John: How do you differentiate that scenario from what we know the Clintons did with their foundation and foreign entities?

      The Clintons used a foundation to graft money for themselves and Trump apparently thinks he can give his business empire to his kids and let them run it without any issue of undue influence from the presidency. I don’t see the difference as far creating at least the appearance of conflict of interest.

      1. I don’t see the difference as far creating at least the appearance of conflict of interest.

        Yes, you have no evidence he has done anything wrong. That is my point. The Clintons took millions of dollars directly from foreign governments who had business before the Department of State. The Wikileaks emails revealed that there was a revolving door between the foundation and her office. It was an influence peddling operation.

        If it turns out that Trump sets up a similar operation, that would be a crime and he should be impeached over it. But there is no evidence that is happening at all. So what is your point? You have none.

        By your standard no one who owns a business of any kind can hold public office in this country lest that business profit from someone who might want something from the government. Yeah, that totally sounds like something you actually believe. it is not some bullshit ad hoc excuse you have concocted here.

        Give me a fucking break.

        1. I will give Trump a chance to not be corrupt like the Clintons. Obviously this is all speculation since he hasn’t taken office yet.

          However, while the media will relentlessly birddog Trump and his business interests my concern is hypocrisy and Team Red tribalism blinding voters to possible corruption.

          I just want there to be vigilance instead of lame excuse making if or when Trump does something that’s shady but not technically illegal in the finest tradition of how the Clintons ran things.

          1. Well, the Clintons left “not technically illegal” in their rearview mirror when they set up their foundation, but other than that, sure, I’ll be first in line to barbecue Trump’s balls if he starts accepting bribes or peddling influence.

          2. However, while the media will relentlessly birddog Trump and his business interests my concern is hypocrisy and Team Red tribalism blinding voters to possible corruption.

            I don’t recall being angry about Clinton’s possible corruption. And I defy you to find anywhere where I ever had a problem with the Clinton Foundation or demanded they close it down until it came out that they were using it as an influence peddling operation.

            When there is evidence Trump is corrupt, we can call him corrupt and demand appropriate action. But, calling him that now without any evidence is bullshit. Moreover, it accomplishes nothing except reduce your credibility should you ever actually have a supportable allegation. So I don’t think you are doing yourself or your side any favors.

        2. that small electrician business you owned for a decade renders you ineligible for the cuty council. you should have been working for the towns maintenance dept, that would be better.

        3. Don’t worry everyone. John will be here for the next four years wiping and polishing this turd.

          1. It is just lovely to hear your powerless cry de ceors.

            1. Amsoc’s tears will be plentiful over the next 4 years.

              1. I admit it’s been pretty entertaining so far.

      2. The comparison is between a donation to a charity operated by and for the benefit of the Clintons themselves, and a business arrangement between two companies, one of which is owned and operated by the Trump’s children, yes?

        At an abstract enough level, I will agree that there’s no difference, that both situations involve benefits to the office-holder and their immediate family. Of course, at that level, the only way to avoid these conflicts of interest is to bar any office-holder and their relatives from any financial interactions with any third party.

        So, the devil is in the details. Such as – does the officeholder know about the benefits? Are the benefits intended to be the quid for a quo? Was the quo delivered? etc.

        1. Exactly. The Devil is in the details. The mere fact that the Clintons had a charitable foundation while she was Secretary of State was not a problem. It was how she ran it and the details of her relationship to it while she was in office that created the problem.

          1. If Trump only meets with people who rent office space in the Trump tower, THAT would be a problem…

    3. The text of clause does not mention even ‘politicians’ instead using a very specific term – ‘office of profit or trust.’ Which, at the time the Constitution was written was generally understood to mean appointed offices.

      It’s not even clear the clause applies to elected officials such as senators, representatives, or POTUS.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_profit
      http://www.outsidethebeltway.c….._of_trust/

      1. It should be noted that the insider trading laws do not apply to members of Congress. It Suderman is so concerned about improper gains, he might want to look into that issue. He won’t but if he had any integrity or meant a word he said, he would.

        1. As I recall, the STOCK Act was pretty much immediately nuked from orbit to no one’s surprise.

          1. A recent google tells me that they did ban insider trading for congress. What they nuked was the financial disclosure system. It’s now housed in a basement in DC. So no one will actually know what financial trades are occurring…

            And, when the SEC did go after a staffer for insider trading, the House argued that it was unconstitutional for the SEC to subpoena the records they needed to prosecute the case.

            I couldn’t immediately find the outcome of that case.

  12. Worry about it? But it’ll be the best opportunity to impeach the guy.

    1. Impeach him for what? Owning a business that his kids run? I guess we need to keep those filthy capitalists out of government.

        1. So, you have nothing to say and are just talking out of your ass. Anyone reading your post knew that but thanks for confirming it.

          1. I do lament that I cannot offer anything to this illuminating discussion.

            Pete made the argument that Trump will use his office to benefit his businesses, and that this possibility should worry us. But if that happens, it gives both parties cover to get rid of him, so why should we worry? He should be hoping Trump does it.

            It’s all quite simple, friendo.

  13. 1) If followed to its logical conclusion, isn’t this just saying that people who “own stuff” (e.g., non-liquid assets) can’t be president? This seems questionable from a libertarian perspective.

    2) Running for president, let alone winning, seems almost certain to cost Trump a ton of money. Lots and lots of upper class people hate his guts now and are not likely to stay at his hotels. There’s always another nice hotel around the corner. We’ve already seen NBA teams saying that they won’t stay at his hotels.

    2a) Every other politician seems to become rich by being a politician. Clintons obviously. Obama is going to become a filthy rich in the next few years. All the big Congress critters seem to make “wise” investments. Gore. Probably a bunch of Republicans too, but they seem to be a bit more behind the scenes with this stuff.

    All that aside, the guy owns hotels and golf courses and maybe puts his name on some dress shirts. As big as the government is, it’s not like there’s some massive “hotel and golf course” bill coming up for a vote.

    1. Hotel and Gold Revitalization Act of 2017

      1. Golf*

    2. The NBA is too funny.

  14. “As President of the United States, Trump will have unique global political influence, and it is already apparent that Trump will use it to personally advantage his own business interests.”

    A little tu quoque:

    Could you explain to me how this is significantly different than the Clinton Foundation?

    On a more serious note, Trump’s large business will generate serious conflict of interest issues.

    1. As long as he has no part in the day to day operations and as long as his kids don’t peddle access to him as a way to generate business, he won’t have an issue. I have no idea if he will do that. But the mere fact that he owns a business that operates overseas is not in itself a conflict of interest or a problem.

      Indeed, Suderman knows this. He has no evidence that Trump has done or will do anything wrong. That is why he relies upon claims of appearance and various hypotheticals.

    2. it is already apparent that Trump will use it to personally advantage his own business interests

      Wouldn’t anything Trump does that improves the business climate or economy generally also advantage his own business interests? As in “OMG, Trump signed an across-the-board cut in tax rates, which will benefit his company by X dollars”? Surely we don’t want to go down the road of saying everything he does that has any beneficial impact on his (former) businesses or family is corrupt and should be opposed.

      Perhaps we should instead keep an eye out for, you know, quid pro quos, bribery, that kind of thing. Which we should do for every politician, no? Trump’s former businesses may give him more opportunity to be bribed, but seems to me we are jumping the gun if we pre-convict him of being corrupt.

      1. Does actively pursuing the use of eminent domain for the benefit of private interests count as corruption, even when someone is on the business side of the business-politician collusion? Or does it simply make him a business man taking advantage of an opportunity?

        1. If he hadn’t done that, his competitors certainly would have. So the choice is either do everything you can within the law or let your competitors run you out of business.

  15. That’s the spirit, Petey. Don’t let the Big Bad Wolf intimidate you.

  16. The very notion of a “blind trust” is absurd, no matter whom you apply it to. Would President [insert name] not “suspect” certain policies and decisions might have an impact on the bottom line of his holdings? Presidents are expected to be aware that their actions have consequences. What’s the fucking point, otherwise? Why not a Magic Eight Ball, or chicken bones?

    1. Pretty much. Unless you want to make the President take a vow of poverty and give up all of their possessions upon entering office, there is no getting around that.

      1. No vow of poverty necessary, they will just need to take a page from the Book of Reid, Schakowsky, Feinstein, et.al. and go into the business of government.

        Very profitable that one.

        1. Yes it is. And at least according the Sudderman, the money is clean unlike dirty private sector money.

  17. As much as I detest the idea of rampant crony capitalism, I detest politicians that are openly hostile to capitalism in general even more. At least Trump is pro-business, even if it is crooked business that uses the levers of state power to gain advantages.

  18. To be fair, the last part of the article, starting with “But even if Trump completely divests himself of his personal business conflicts,”, isn’t too bad.

    One question, though – Remember John Kerry, married to the fabulously wealthy Teresa Heinz? I wonder where the articles were questioning whether Kerry was fit for public office in spite of his family’s large business interests? Is there anything said in this article about Trump that couldn’t also have been said about Kerry?

    1. Not a word. And Reason never said a single thing about it, though Kerry didn’t win the election.

    2. Don’t you get it? This guy is a billionaire!

    3. Counselor… You seem to have forgotten Walker’s article on, “Wherewereyouism,” – in addition to, “Whataboutism,” – which both preclude you from even mentioning John Kerry and the fair Theresa’s sizeable holdings of a global condiments magnate. Certainly and for sure a Globetrotting SoS could never be in a position to influence other countries to improve or even permit sale of such things as ketchup, mustard, and mayo. Or even uranium and rare earth metals, FTM, by him or a worthy successor. Unthinkable.

  19. Let’s say a businessman President is convinced to dump the entirety of his holdings in a fire sale. What are the tax consequences? Is it “fair”?

    1. The tax consequences would be enormous. And no it wouldn’t be fair. But, I don’t see how anything short of that would satisfy Suderman.

      1. Aside from enormous tax consequences, it would take years to sort it all out. And that assumes a buyer is found immediately.

  20. Sounds like the type of creep who would run a shell non-profit corp to accept illegal gifts and money from foreign governments while in office, or who might funnel billions of dollars into business ventures owned by his political allies only to watch them fall into bankruptcy, or who might negotiate a federal bailout of private business interests that stiff the bondholders in favor of handing equity to union interests. We don’t need somebody like that in office.

  21. “Since then, the issue has been a recurring obsession; Trump has tweeted about it 60 times.”

    60 tweets only rates a mild to moderate level of interest for Trump.

  22. It’s good to see Suderman didn’t kill himself after the election. And by good I mean bad.

    1. Macadoodle was gone for so damn long I was starting to think he might have drowned in his own tears.

    2. Hey, you guys knock it off, or he’ll tell Megan, and she’ll come beat you up.

  23. “Trump’s seems to believe that this is a non-issue. He recently told The New York Times that he believes that, regarding the mixing of his private projects and his public role, “the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

    This is factually correct.

    Here’s our friend Judge Napolitano on the subject the other night:

    NAPOLITANO: “Actually, the problem for President-Elect Trump is a [political] one and not a legal one. The reason it’s not a legal one is that all of the ethics rules that the congress has written and his predecessors have signed into office regulating everybody that works for the federal government have two exceptions to them, the vice president and the president, so, none of the rules that govern everyone else govern him.

    Stated differently, he can lawfully run the executive branch of the federal government and operate his businesses at the same time. He can engage in dealing which appears to be a conflict of interest and again the remedy is political, it’s not legal. Look, he can’t break the law, he can’t accept payments from foreign governments in order to confer benefits on them and even his wildest critics have not accused him of that. But if he tows the line he can probably do what he says he is going to do, be a good businessman and be a great president at the same time.

    1. Forget about it Ken. Its Suderman. The guy is just gone.

      1. This was a good point–if you wanted to vote against Hillary.

        “He can engage in dealing which appears to be a conflict of interest and again the remedy is political, it’s not legal. Look, he can’t break the law, he can’t accept payments from foreign governments in order to confer benefits on them and even his wildest critics have not accused him of that.”

        —-Napolitano

        Hillary Clinton accepted money from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State. She accepted the money, and then she turned around and approved weapons sales that were pending before her.

        There’s no equivalency here.

        Even if Trump weren’t separating himself from his business empire–which he’s doing–you can’t fault Trump for accurately stating the fact that according to the law, “The President can’t have a conflict of interest”.

        That’s not an outrageous claim. That’s a fact.

        And you’d vote against Hillary because of that fact–because she is well known to have repeatedly abused public office for personal gain.

        Meanwhile, Trump is isolating himself from his businesses for political reasons. He doesn’t want the voters to turn against him during his reelection campaign, and he doesn’t want to be impeached.

        1. You are correct on all of this, but the Trump Derangement Syndrome is strong with Suderman.

  24. KELLY: So it’s fine for him, if he is on the phone with, you know the leader of Argentina as he reportedly was and sort of says, hey now that we’re done with state business, what’s the status with my approval on my hotel down there. Sure would help me out if you can get that pushed through quickly. That is legal? That is fine?

    NAPOLITANO: That is legal. It may appear unlawful, it would be unlawful if a governor did it, and it would be unlawful if a senator or a member of congress did it, but it is not unlawful for the president. Candidly, Megyn when the statutes are written, nobody contemplated a Donald Trump. Nobody contemplated a billionaire with serious interests in 20 countries around the world, even countries that are currently not friendly with the United States. They wanted to give the president as much freedom as possible.

    http://www.foxnews.com/transcr…..-reflects/

    Just because we don’t like the way things are doesn’t mean they’re otherwise.

    1. Which is also why impeachment is an entirely open ended issue.

      Almost like the people who wrote the thing new what they were doing.

      Would that the people who swear to uphold and defend it were something more similar.

      1. Exactly.

        Impeachment is a political thing.

        If you impeach someone, and the American people don’t like it, you can pay a big political price for that a la Lewinsky.

        But apart from that, Congress can impeach Trump for anything he does.

  25. I’d rather have a President who is corrupt to business and making money by providing at least some real value than a President who is corrupt to foreign countries and political hacks who have nobody’s interest in mind but their own.

    1. I share a bit of your opinion here. As I read this article I remembered a Clinton campaign speech in which she was actively railing against the sharing economy. The sharing economy seems to be one of the few bright spots in terms of economic growth in this country, and she wanted to stifle it. I don’t mean to say that just because Clinton had some terrible economic positions that we should turn a blind eye to potential conflicts of interest for Trump, but I do think that this is a better alternative to someone that is actively hostile to all forms of private enterprise.

      1. Every time I see some article about how bad Trump is, cabinet or judge picks or agenda or whatnot, I wonder what Hillary’s choice would have been, and thank Zeebus that it’s not her at the same time I whine about Trump.

        The ONLY way I think Trump is worse than Hillary is that he is so volatile, he might do something stupid just by chance and dig in his heels and double down on it. But Hillary is the one who said we needed a no-fly zone over Syria in order to get leverage over the Russkies, so she was far more likely to start a war intentionally than Trump is by mistake.

        I also think that foreigners realize how volatile Trump is and are less likely to over-analyze anything he says or does, even as they rant and rave over his inanities. Why get excited for reals when he’s likely to change his mind an hour later?

        1. I assume Zeebus is the holy love child of Jesus and Zeus.

          1. Damn I like that! Thanks for the rationale.

          2. Gay marriage is (apparently) divine!

      2. “a Clinton campaign speech in which she was actively railing against the sharing economy.”

        Her attack on the sharing economy hits home for me, and it fucking pisses me off. I do some paid writing online on a whenver-I-feel-like-it basis. Seeing as how I’m stuck in a low-wage job for the moment, this opportunity to do extra work has really helped me out. It’s much easier than getting a second job.

        It’s just infuriating that the corrupt rich bitch Hillary Clinton thinks she knows what’s best for me.

        1. You need to amass student loan debt and seek additional credentials.

    2. Of course you would. Tea baggers always did like their own corrupt assholes in charge, while pretending to be libertarians.

  26. Meanwhile, as of today, Trump said he’s separating himself from his business.

    “WASHINGTON?President-elect Donald Trump said he is taking steps to separate himself from his business “in total in order to fully focus on running the country,” responding to criticism that his global real-estate empire might pose unprecedented conflicts of interest for a U.S. leader.

    Mr. Trump, in a series of Wednesday Twitter posts, wrote that “Legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!””

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/do…..1480507486

    Being a commercial real estate developer entails a ton of government regulation and interfacing with government agencies for approvals. I’ve had days where I’ve met with federal, state, county, and city officials–all in the same day!

    Not knowing anything else about a President, I’d rather have a businessman who’d had to wheel and deal with the government for their approvals than a politician who has never had to deal with business people.

    FFS.

    1. “Not knowing anything else about a President, I’d rather have a businessman who’d had to wheel and deal with the government for their approvals than a politician who has never had to deal with business people.”

      Regardless of the skills involved, following Suderman’s whine to the bottom of the bottle means pretty much means no one running a large business can be acceptable as president.

      1. Only career politicians, damn it! They know their place and give us journalists the respect that we deserve!

      2. Yeah, you can’t run a businesswithout having to interact with a bunch of different agencies.

        Here’s a copy of the CEQA process flow chart in California:

        http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/pages/….._chart.pdf

        People have no idea what it takes to get an operating permit in a state like California.

        And that flow chart is just for state and local. What about the Feds?

        What about the Fish and Wildlife Service? What about the Army Corps?

        When they say it takes 18-24 months to get all the signatures necessary before the city or country can actually consider whether or not to approve your project, that’s assuming nothing goes wrong.

        That public comment period opens up the process to anybody who wants to object to your plans for any reason.

        You always need a sign off by the local Indian tribe–which usually involves paying someone from the tribe to be on site during excavation–to see if they find any artifacts. You want to open up a new tire shop? Well, first you meed to get a signature from the Bureau of Indian Affairs! We once had to hire an archaeologist to sift through our dirt as it was recompacted because we’d uncovered old tracks that had been laid by Chinese rail workers.

        Donald Trump has had to pay billions of dollars in fees for bullshit like that–just to get plans approved. If I knew nothing else about the guy, I’d think that would make him better qualified to be President than the other lady.

        1. Did the archaeologist find anything? Just curious.

        2. “Yeah, you can’t run a business without having to interact with a bunch of different agencies.”

          It’s not only the agencies; it’s the license to sue which they can grant.
          Wife and I are peripherally involved in the Warrior’s stadium going in at Mission Bay. It is 100% funded by the team, including land purchase, It has been approved by every entity which claims to have jurisdiction. The team is paying ‘mitigation’ to improved infrastructure, public transit, etc.
          Well, that ain’t enough; anyone willing to finance their attorney’s new yacht can make it tough:

          “Opposition to Warriors’ San Francisco arena builds
          […]
          “”[We’re prepared] to litigate until the cows come home,” Singer said.”
          http://www.goldenstateofmind.c…..ena-builds

  27. I would have guessed suderman would go back to being credulous about obamacare.

  28. My donation bid for firing McCuckerman is now $200.

    1. I’ll match that. I’d even be okay with Reason trading Suderman to Bloomberg for Megan. Reason would probably have to kick in a couple draft picks or a promising intern, though.

      1. I’m not sure what Megan has to offer a libertarian publication, kitchen gadget reviews?

        1. Her whatever?

  29. If Trump does anything inappropriate, Congress can impeach him for it. As things currently stand, I see this as just more media pants-shitting over the guy. Being President seems like an incredibly stressful and dangerous way to slink your way into better-than-arms-length treatment for your hotel by the Chinese government.

    1. “this as just more media pants-shitting over the guy.”

      “Feast of memes mock Trump?Romney dinner date”
      http://www.sfgate.com/politics…..644497.php

  30. I think I’m gonna go into business selling blankets that protect people from Trump.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsAgNl1p974

  31. I worry less about outright corruption (he’s already loaded), and more about policy position inertia.

    Trump benefited from eminent domain, so in his mind eminent domain is a good thing for the country. He doesn’t seem view these things as separate, so he’ll now help others fleece the taxpayers on the basis that it’s a good policy.

    Whether he makes a cent off of it or not is secondary.

  32. Why would I “worry”? If Trump focuses on enriching himself through his presidency, that’s still a lot less corrupt than Hillary paying off all her billionaire donors and supporters with favorable legislation, regulations, and contracts.

  33. The president-elect was a crony capitalist businessman. Now he’s set to become a crony capitalist politician.

    All you’re alleging is that Trump will profit from his presidency. Geez, the horror! Just like Obama and Clinton?

    In any case, making money from the presidency isn’t crony capitalism; you can’t be your own crony.

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  35. Ah, good… Goldstein has put up a new article. Let the two minutes hate begin.

  36. As far as I can tell, Trump thinks this is how the relationship between government and business is *supposed* to work.

  37. Il douche, il fascista americano. (thanks Google translate)

    And I figure most hardcore trumpkins still think they are supporting a pro-capitalism politician.

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  39. “At least he is not Hillary.”

    Say it, baggers. Say it while you pretend to be libertarians.

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