PBHFA Name Checked In Associated Press Article

PBHFA Name Checked In Associated Press Article

Thank you to our PR firm and board member,  Jonathan Beaton for managing the agenda-driven reporter in this global news story. Here it is as published on CBS Money Watch.

 

Book Trump? Interest groups press case at his properties

 

Last Updated Feb 22, 2018 10:36 AM EST

E-cigarette makers got a delay in federal oversight of many vaping products. Payday lenders got regulators to rethink rules on how closely to vet borrowers. Candy makers praised a decision to hold off on tougher labeling standards. And title insurers declared “victory” for getting changes that benefited them in the tax overhaul.

What do all these American special-interest groups have in common? They were among those that booked meetings, retreats and conferences at hotels and golf resorts owned by President Donald Trump.

While it’s impossible to draw a direct link between where groups seeking to influence the Trump administration hold their events and what they received, one thing is certain: Never before in American history have such groups had the opportunity to hold an event at a property owned by the president, paying for event space, rooms and food with money that ultimately heads into the president’s pockets.

An Associated Press analysis of the special interests that visited Trump properties in the first year of his presidency found several instances that at least created the appearance of “pay for play.” And lobbying experts say as long as the president fails to divest from his businesses and can still profit from such bookings, special interests will take full advantage.

“The name of the game is to have your message heard, and frankly, if you’re helping put money in the family pocket, that’s a good way of getting heard. And it’s legal,” said Bob Schneider, a former lobbyist who worked in Washington for 25 years.

“If I were still doing that business, I would run to the Trump Hotel and have every event I could there,” Schneider said, “because I can’t imagine anyone believing that Donald Trump Jr. doesn’t tell his dad what’s going on with the business.”

 

Palm Beach Hedgefund Association At Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in Palm Beach, Fla.

Before taking office, Trump made a series of promises to draw a “red line” between his businesses and his administration. They included setting up a trust to hold his assets (which he can still access at any time), handing day-to-day management responsibilities to his two oldest sons and hiring an ethics lawyer to vet business deals. He also pledged to always act “beyond reproach” and never give “even the appearance of a conflict.”

In the first year of the Trump presidency, the watchdog group Public Citizen counted at least 19 interest groups that held events at Trump properties, including those representing miners, oil drillers, hedge fund operators, insurers, funeral home directors and commercial real estate investors.

Palm Beach Hedgefund Association At Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in Palm Beach, Fla.

But it’s difficult to know exactly how many such meetings were held and how much money those groups spent because, unlike political organizations or campaigns, interest groups are not required to reveal their expenditures at private facilities.

And the Trump Organization declined to even discuss such meetings.

Several special-interest groups contacted by the AP repeatedly said price, location and availability – not trying to influence public policy – were their primary reasons for booking with Trump.

Government ethics watchdogs say that while these actions may be legal, they can cause the public to question some of the Trump administration’s decisions.

“There’s a pretty big difference from lobbying and giving business to the president, which essentially means actually enriching the president,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“When you have these kinds of business relationships, it creates the risk that the president is instead going to be motivated by what’s in his financial interest instead of what’s in the best interest of the American people.”

A look at several special interests that met at Trump properties, their lobbying priorities, and the real-world results:

BANKERS

Hedge fund managers, bankers and payday lenders have been opening their wallets at Trump properties.

In March, the Palm Beach Hedge Fund Association, members of an industry that Trump once said were “getting away with murder” with tax breaks, held a meet-and-greet gathering at his Mar-a-Lago club in town.

A few days later, executives from dozens of banks converged for a three-day conference at the Trump National Doral Miami that was sponsored by a trade magazine. Its panel discussions included one titled “The Trump presidency and what it means for banking.”

or its part, the Community Financial Services Association, a payday lending group, said it first held an annual meeting at the Doral 16 years ago and added, “We look forward to returning.”

A board member of the Palm Beach hedge fund group, Jonathan Beaton, said it was a just a social club, not a lobbying organization.

“No one is trying to get to Trump or change policy,” he said.

Next up, a payday lending group will be heading to the Doral in April for its annual conference.

Trump administration goals often align with business groups, but those groups have nevertheless notched significant concessions from lawmakers and regulators in recent months.

Federal regulators recently announced they would reconsider rules requiring payday lenders to make sure potential borrowers can pay back loans. And a law passed late last year will make it harder for consumers to join together to sue their banks.

Also, the tax overhaul left open a loophole for hedge fund operators to claim much of their income as “carried interest” taxed at lower rates than ordinary income. But after Senate questioning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that he plans to close the loophole.

Money manager Tom Brown, who spoke at the Doral event for bankers, said he didn’t believe attendees saw it as an opportunity to curry favor with the Trump administration.

For its part, the Community Financial Services Association, a payday lending group, said it first held an annual meeting at the Doral 16 years ago and added, “We look forward to returning.” A board member of the Palm Beach hedge fund group, Jonathan Beaton, said it was a just a social club, not a lobbying organization.

“No one is trying to get to Trump or change policy,” he said.