Apparently it doesn’t take much these days to become the ambassador of a country like say, South Africa. In fact in Trump’s administration it seems the only things that are needed are paid memberships to his resorts or private golf cubs.
Maybe ambassadorships are included in the exclusive package deals at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., but either way, Trump’s real estate lawyer who is also a member of his private golf club and two other longtime members have all been given ambassadorships.
According to an exclusive USA Today investigation, while ambassadorships have long been given to friends of the president, Trump is the first to actual handout foreign postings to paying customers.
From USA Today:
Since he took office, Trump has appointed at least eight people who identified themselves as current or former members of his club to senior posts in his administration. USA TODAY identified five of those appointees in mid-2017, prompting criticism from ethics watchdogs that the selections blurred the boundary between his public duties and his private financial interests.
Since then, Trump has appointed three other members as ambassadors in Europe and Africa. One has been confirmed by the Senate.
The White House declined to comment on how the administration selected them to represent the U.S. government in foreign capitals.
Federal ethics rules don’t prohibit the president from nominating his customers or his members from accepting. Neither government ethics lawyers nor the lawmakers who must approve the nominations traditionally question whether would-be members of the administration have private business relationships with the president.
Becoming a member of one of Trump’s clubs can require initiation fees of $100,000 or more, plus thousands more a year in dues – though the amounts vary widely. The money goes to Trump’s private company. That firm is being held in a trust during his presidency, but Trump is its sole beneficiary, entitled to withdraw money from it whenever he chooses.
Three longtime members of Trump exclusive clubs were nominated last year: David Cornstein as ambassador to Hungary; Lana Marks, as ambassador to South Africa, and Adrian Zuckerman, a New York real estate lawyer, to be the U.S. ambassador to Romania.
“You have to question whether these members of his clubs are getting these appointments because they deserve them or because they’re his paying customers,” Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told USA Today.
“You get into really bad territory when people start wondering if the president has put the government up for sale.”