Like a true businessman, Donald Trump gave his private Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago a promotional boost using multiple government websites: the State Department’s Share America website and the websites of U.S. embassies to the U.K., Portugal, and Albania. The sites took down the articles as critics said the move was a blatant case of use of public office for private gain.
Mar-A-Lago Gets Government Endorsement
The posts surfaced earlier this month in locations not suited for promotional messages. On one of the embassies’ websites, the article appeared on a post discussing the U.S. involvement in WWI and a post asking for humanitarian aid in Syria.
The controversial article showed how the resort was once given to the use of U.S. presidents and how Trump planned to restore it to its original grandeur. One post read that Trump is not the first U.S. president to have access to the estate as a retreat, but he was the first time actually to use it.
Mar-a-Lago’s previous owner, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, donated the estate to the U.S. government on the condition to be used as a winter retreat for U.S. presidents and a place where they could meet with foreign leaders.
The U.S. government reportedly never used the property, and it had to return the mansion to the Post family because the maintenance was too costly. In 1985, Trump, who is referred as a “real estate magnate” in the article, bought the property. The report added that heiress Post’s dream was fulfilled with Trump’s win in 2016.
The dubious posts sound like free commercials to many ears. But it is not the first time the Trump administration use their government positions to endorse a particular commercial product.
Trump’s White House Too Endorsed Commercial Products
When the Nordstrom scandal broke out, Kellyanne Conway promoted the president’s daughter’s brand in an official broadcast. The Office of Government Ethics requested disciplinary action against Conway, but the senior adviser was cleared of all wrongdoing by her colleagues at the White House.
This time, Trump is using taxpayer dollars to promote his Mar-a-Lago private club, which charges its members $200,000 a year. The State Department posted the article on Apr. 4 on Share America, a website which is managed by the agency’s Bureau of International Information Programs.
The article featured on the websites of multiple U.S. embassies and the agency’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Although it was a week-old, the article first caught the public’s attention on Monday, when it was widely shared online.
At 7 p.m. Monday, the agency removed the article, replacing it with a disclaimer stating that the article’s purpose was to “inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders.” Share America apologized for any “misperception.”
White House sources said the White House didn’t know about the article’s existence until the State Dept. removed it. The officials declined to provide further comment. Barack Obama’s ethics chief Norman Eisen recently noted the article violates federal rules barring the use of public office for personal gain. Former ethics lawyer under George W. Bush Richard Painter confirmed the article was a “pure and simple” violation of the said ethics rules.
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