A big donor to Trump's July 4th celebration also lobbied for and and secured a major victory on tariffs: report
President Donald Trump has decided to make Washington, D.C.'s Fourth of July celebrations all about himself, which means, of course, that it must be rife with apparent corruption.
While the celebration is supposedly a public, government-funded event, the Republican National Committee is giving tickets to see Trump's speech for the night to administration appointees and Republican donors, HuffPost reported. Meanwhile, $2.5 million designated for the National Park Service to spend on parks around the country has been redirected to finance the event, CBS News reported. And ABC News reported Wednesday that the company Phantom Fireworks of Youngstown, Ohio, has donated $750,000 worth of fireworks to the event — while also lobbying the administration against tariffs.
And, as ABC News noted, the company got its wish last week. Trump decided to hold off on levying $300 billion more in tariffs against Chinese goods, which would have slammed the fireworks business.
"This is another example of how private companies attempt use their money to influence the government by stroking the president's ego," Jordan Libowitz of the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told ABC News.
The company, of course, denied there was any political motivation behind the donation, and the administration declined to comment. Whether any actual quid pro quo arose between Trump and the company may be hard to prove or indeed false, but this question actually may not be relevant. As long as companies think there's a possibility that their donations may make a difference in policy, and Trump does nothing to dissuade them from this view, then he can reap the benefits of de facto corruption. And even the perception of these kinds of conflicts of interests is damaging to the government.
Trump also publicly praised Phantom Fireworks and another company in a recent tweet, which ABC News noted may run afoul federal employee ethics guidelines:
Thanks to “Phantom Fireworks” and “Fireworks by Grucci" for their generosity in donating the biggest fireworks show… https://t.co/cqbZQzMX6e— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1562105156.0
It seems that giving substantial donations to the president's interests may not just help your lobbying aims, but it could end up essentially buying you ad space on Trump's Twitter feed. And if, as many fear, Trump July 4th address amounts to little more than a campaign speech, all the money going toward the event will raise serious questions about campaign finance laws.
Of course, this event is just one in the deluge of daily corruption and conflicts of interest that Trump has unleashed. In another stunning development of the day, The Washington Post revealed Wednesday that the Justice Department inspector general is reviewing the Trump administration's decision to cancel plans for a new FBI building, which many critics say was done for the president's own financial benefit.