Pay For Play At Mar-A-Lago

Donald Trump's "Winter White House," which has effectively become a "Weekend White House," is basically selling access to the President.


Barely two months into his Presidency, Donald Trump is already finding ways to profit off of it:

If you pay $200,000 a year to the company Donald Trump owns, you too can have access most weekends to the president and his top officials. As an alternative, your organization could cut a $150,000 check to bring in a couple of hundred people who will have a chance to schmooze with the president and cabinet officials. Foreign moguls and dignitaries welcome.

This isn’t Bill Clinton’s Lincoln Bedroom. This isn’t the Clinton Foundation during Hillary’s reign at the State Department. This is Mar-a-Lago.

All of this comes from Timothy Carney at The Washington Examiner, hardly a bastion of the left-wing media bias that conservatives typically complain about. Carney also notes that this pay-for-play was on full display last night at a major benefit hosted by Trump at the estate. For the price of $50,000 and up, people could get access to the President and his wife, and those who did show up were getting to meet Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was mingling with the guests and acting as a greeter at the same time that his Justice Department is apparently investigating the very election that put this President into office. Let’s let that sink in for a second. The Attorney General was acting as a greeter in the same manner that a retired boxer or other professional athlete is often paid tens of thousands of dollars to do at a Las Vegas casino. If this were happening under a Democratic Administration, Republicans would be in an uproar.

Carney goes on to explain why these allegations are so important:

Access to the president and his Cabinet are incredibly valuable. This is why companies spend millions a year on lobbying. This is why President Obama‘s golfing buddy Robert Wolf was able to set up a powerful consultancy in the Obama years. This is why Indian tribes paid Jack Abramoff so much money.

In those cases, it was associates of the president who sold access to the president. With Mar-a-Lago, it’s the president himself profiting from access to him. Trump refused to sell his company or unload his properties. While he has given up management of them, he still owns them. That means he still profits when someone books a gala there or becomes a member. And if you’ve followed the lobbying game in Washington, you know that special interests are likely shelling out the cash to get a chance to be close to the president — not necessarily because they expect Trump to reward them as a quid pro quo for their membership, but because joining Mar-a-Lago is the best way to get close to him.

None of this should come as a surprise, of course. Much of it was apparent long before the election and was discussed along with the other numerous conflicts of interests that Trump would face if he were elected President and did not place his business holdings in a blind trust. As it stands, the arrangements that he made in March, under which his ownership interest in The Trump Organization was placed in a trust of which he is the sole beneficiary while his eldest sons and daughter take over  management of the business is most emphatically not a blind trust. Moreover, Trump remains well aware of actions that benefit his business and pecuniary interests even while the purpose of the supposed trust is to make sure that there is a “Chinese wall” between the politician in question and his business and investment interests. We have nothing of the sort here, instead, we have a situation where foreign governments, government officials, and business leaders, along with domestic business leaders and representatives of various interest groups, believe that they can get close to the President and buy the much coveted access to the person behind the Resolute Desk that everyone wants by currying favor with Trump, his businesses, and his favored charities. And what’s happening at Mar-A-Lago demonstrates that they’re absolutely correct.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    This is the Republican government. The Republican congress has made it clear they will not only refuse to investigate, they will act as enablers.

  2. Lit3Bolt says:

    Great article Doug.

    If every intelligence apparatus in the world, including corporations, cartels, firms, and governments don’t have a membership/co-opted a member by now, they haven’t been doing their job.

    Soon there will be enough wifi hackers/cell phone tower intercepts/satellites aimed at Mar-a-Lago to cook birds mid-flight.

    But all Republicans are okay with this because a foreign government interfering in our elections is what the founders really wanted. Originalism!

    You have your Daddy, Republicans. He’s corrupt, unbalanced, and incompetent, but as long as Daddy hates what you hate, you will love him forever.

  3. CSK says:


    Slight correction to what you wrote: “As long as Daddy pretends to hate what you hate, you will love him forever.”

  4. Senyordave says:

    and his favored charities.

    The idea that one could curry favor with Trump by donating to his favorite charities is pretty funny.

  5. Davebo says:

    All of this comes from Timothy Carney at The Washington Examiner, hardly a bastion of the left-wing media bias that conservatives typically complain about.

    True, it’s from a writer and a publication that has long been the opposite of what conservatives typically complain about. Only their case it’s actually real and pathetically blatant.

    I’m not going to give kudos to either of them for this one off article. It’s the same kind of thing that puts Erik Erikson on CNN for reason no one can fathom.

    And neither Carney or the Examiner have to worry about this affecting their little wing nut welfare racket. Just read the comments.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    “Drain the swamp,” indeed. They are the swamp.

  7. Lit3bolt says:


    True, but who cares at this point. The greatest irony of Trump and the GOP is that they have utterly embraced what they claim to hate; moral and cultural relativism. But even post-modernism is acceptable, as long as it’s in pursuit of capital and racism.

    Those are the two pillars of the modern GOP. Everything else flows from them, even when they contradict.

  8. Scott says:

    Besides selling access which is probably the greater grift, I wonder how much the Trump Organization is charging the taxpayer directly for Secret Service space, meeting space, secure space, etc. Looks like Mar a Lago has become even more a profit center for the Trump Organization.

  9. CSK says:


    It’s the magnitude of the con job that Trump has run on his acolytes that really staggers me. They honestly believe that he’s a man of the people who’s fighting for them. The truth is that if any of these saps could afford Mar-A-Lago, they’d be about as welcome there as an infestation of bedbugs.

  10. Mikey says:


    The truth is that if any of these saps could afford Mar-A-Lago, they’d be about as welcome there as an infestation of bedbugs.

    Well, to be fair, that would also be true of Trump himself if he didn’t own the place.

  11. CSK says:


    Well, of course. The people who would like to stay at a Trump property because they think it’s “classy” can’t afford it. And most of the people with the wherewithal to stay at a Trump property wouldn’t be caught dead in one.

  12. Argon says:

    Gosh, who could authorize investigations into possible ethical and legal conflicts of interest and bring charges?

    Congress, as controlled by…

    Ok then, never going to happen.

    I bet 2018’s Congressional and state elections are going to have very high turnouts.

  13. Tyrell says:

    I did not criticize Obama for his frequent golf trips. Eisenhower practically lived on the golf courses. But there should be some limits on this travel unless it is official business. The president should not have a blank check from the taxpayers to travel. They should have a travel expense and if they go over it, they pay for it, not us
    Meanwhile, breaking news: North Korea fires missile at South Korea !
    Chicago goes 6 days without a fatal shooting, breaking a long standing record
    World leaders going to Antarctica: what’s up with that ?
    Tarheels dunk Duke !
    NASA predicts asteroid TC 4 could hit earth !
    Texans alarmed over black cube hovering in sky near White Sands secret military complex (“don’t mess with Texas”).

  14. Gustopher says:

    @Tyrell: The President is not a prisoner* — he reimburses the government for civilian travel rates, and the government picks up all the extra required for security, etc. That’s how it has always been, and it’s a pretty fair arrangement for all involved, or as fair as we can figure out.

    The fact that this President is making more use of this than others is pretty immaterial — the voters can decide whether they want to keep footing the bill in 4 years.

    (*And, if Mr. Trump does become a prisoner, he probably won’t be President then)

  15. Gustopher says:

    At least the corruption is refreshingly open.

    None of that weird “maybe she’s shaking down foreign leaders for donations to the Clinton Foundation so she can go fight AIDS in Africa” stuff. There’s no shades of gray, there’s nothing that requires special prosecutors to investigate it for years, it’s just paying for access right out in the open.

    At some point, this will become such a scandal that no one will be able to ignore it, and then there will be that shocking moment where everyone realizes that the obvious corruption was in fact obvious corruption — like when we stopped making jokes about alter boys and started prosecuting priests.

    Unless, of course, Trump is gone by then, forced to resign when the reasons for the wiretapping are made public or something.

  16. Mr. Bluster says:

    @Gustopher:..forced to resign when the reasons for the wiretapping are made public or something.

    What wiretapping?

    FBI Director Comey Asked Justice Department to Reject Trump’s Wiretap Claims
    The Times reported that Comey requested that the Justice Department publicly rebut the president’s allegations — which he posted on Twitter without evidence — because the claims are untrue and suggest that the FBI broke the law. Comey’s appeal pits him against the president.

  17. Senyordave says:

    @Gustopher: At least the corruption is refreshingly open.

    IMO that is the most shocking part of all. As Doug stated, the Attorney General of the US is a greeter at Trump’s pay for play resort. It boggles the mind. You’d think that there would be some level of embarrassment among the GOP about this. Instead this is now accepted as SOP for Trump. He’ll get a little presidenting done in between his own personal gain.

  18. David M says:

    @Mr. Bluster:

    It’s quite likely there was a FISA warrant for some electronic communications in Trump Tower, but that’s not at all the same as Obama ordering a “tapp” on Trump’s phones.

  19. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:


    Meanwhile, breaking news: North Korea fires missile at South Korea !

    You need to stop using the Weekly World News and the guys at the coffee shop for your information sources. The missiles (there were 4) were test launches into the East Sea, 3 of which landed in Japanese waters, and are thought to be in protest of the military exercises that the ROK holds with the US forces each year. The Kims have been doing something outrageous in protest every year for a long time, but would not fire at the South or at the exercises themselves (or at least haven’t so far) because the US and ROK have held for many years that attempting to interrupt these exercises will be considered an act of war.

  20. Mr. Bluster says:

    @David M:..that’s not at all the same as Obama ordering a “tapp” on Trump’s phones.

    I deny that I have ever alleged that Obama ordered a tap on Trump’s phones.

  21. Stormy Dragon says:
  22. Tyrell says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Okay, that is good information.

  23. Pch101 says:

    Surely there must be a right-wing Youtube video that can rationalize this.

  24. Mikey says:


    You’d think that there would be some level of embarrassment among the GOP about this.

    If they were capable of it, yes, you’d think that.

  25. de stijl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If this were happening under a Democratic Administration, Republicans would be in an uproar.

    Not just the pay-for-play, but imagine that any D President spoke the words that Trump has said, tweeted the thoughts that Trump has, or behaved the way that Trump has.

    It would be a “Constitutional Crisis” x 1,000,000.

    Can you imagine if Obama had done anything remotely like Trump?

  26. CSK says:

    Well, Trump did once say that he could make money by running for president.

    And Melania, in her initial lawsuit against the blogger who referred to her as a paid escort, claimed that damage to her reputation could cause her to lose millions of dollars her position as First Lady could earn her.

    And the Trump spawn appear to be raking in the chips like croupiers.

    This family is about money. Period. Ma-A-Lago is just another multi-uddered cash cow.

  27. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:
    You’re correct, of course…but I am more than willing to wager that the so-called president uses it as an excuse to attack N. Korea in an attempt to distract from the dumpster fire that is his so-called presidency.

  28. SenyorDave says:

    Donald Trump. Worst hire ever.

    Seriously, this guy could not have been elected to our town council. I have been to the candidates forums, and they ask tough, technical questions that you cannot BS your way through. He would have been figuratively laughed off the stage. And this ignorant buffoon is the POTUS. Is there any national Republican who will call him out?

  29. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    There are conflicts here beyond just pay-for-access. The orange dough-boy wants to eliminate clean water regulations…because of course golf courses are huge water hogs.
    [According to Inside Science golf courses soak up over 2 billion gallons of water per day in the US.]
    So the so-called president is gutting environmental regulations, and thus making the water you and I drink dirtier, in order to put more money in his own pockets. But remember, he’s the so-called president so there can be no conflicts of interest.

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:


    NASA predicts asteroid TC 4 could hit earth !

    Ummmm, no:

    NASA’s Asteroid Watch has assured there is no chance this asteroid will hit our planet, but Györgyey-Ries admits more observations are needed to mitigate the uncertainties.

    “Although it has a large uncertainty along the orbit, it is much less than the radial uncertainty, so it just changes the time of the closest flyby. I would say based on this, that there is no chance of impact in 2017, but more observations could help to reduce the uncertainties,” she said.

    Koschny is also aware of the incertitude. Speaking of the asteroid’s size and orbital characteristics, he indicated that “certain items have large uncertainties, in particular the size.” He noted that if it’s a rocky asteroid and if it hit, the effects would be similar to the Chelyabinsk impact.

    As of Apr. 12, 2015, there are 1572 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA) detected. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

    Sorry, no link as that sends me directly to the spam filter. You can find this at

  31. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    The fact that this President is making more use of this than others is pretty immaterial

    Immaterial, yes. But funny that the same folks who complained about Obama traveling are mum about Trump…even though he is spending a ton more of our money on travel than any other President ever has.

  32. ...ig'nint... says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Please don’t say stuff like that. The economic fallout from a failure of the NK government on ROK alone is on the order of a trillion-plus for up to a generation. And that’s before the consequence of linkage with China is added to the equation. China is ill-situated to absorb 5-20 million NK refugees and not particularly amenable to a war with the US but still obligated by treaty to go into one should Jong-eun decide to throw one.

  33. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The orange dough-boy is incapable of conceptualizing anything that complicated. His presidency is failing, rapidly, and an insecure bully who is losing is a dangerous thing. I promise you that we will be in a serious conflict before 2017 is over.

  34. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    There are conflicts here beyond just pay-for-access.

    His brand new immigration ban allows people from the Saudi-Arabia and the UAE to travel here…despite the fact that thousands of Americans have died at the hands of terrorists who came from those nations. That’s because Trump has business interests in those countries. He does not have business interests in the 6 countries named in the ban. So make no mistake about it…your safety and mine is secondary to the so-called presidents business interests.