Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest
By SUNIRA CHAUDHRI
Original Source: Toronto Sun
Donald Trump, real estate tycoon turned President-elect, has promised to run America like a business — complete with improved international deals teeming with favourable terms.
While certainly deserving of marks for ingenuity, this campaign pitch reads more like a far-fetched fairy tale considering the Trump Organization’s various international business relationships. Trump’s business interests have created the largest looming conflict of interest issues that any modern-day president has brought into the White House.
To do business that conflicts with that of your employer is a cardinal sin. It’s a breach of good faith and fidelity; the two key pillars that an employment relationship is built upon. Trump is now America’s highest ranking employee. Instead of aligning himself with the standards required to take office, Trump has flouted his ethical obligations to disclose his potential conflicts of interest.
Even unsophisticated businesses require management employees to disclose outside personal business interests or to avoid them altogether. The most junior civil servant is generally required to give full time and attention to their government job or face a termination for cause as the consequence.
The Trump organization maintains a wide range of holdings including hotels, international real estate, golf courses, and even a winery. Reportedly his organization also maintains financial dealings with China.
Most will recall the dogged criticism former Dick Cheney received for his retained ties to Haliburton Co., the oil services company he led prior to his becoming Vice-President. It impacted his legacy and led Americans to question his integrity. Cheney’s alleged conflict was microscopic in comparison to what America will see when Trump becomes head of state.
While Trump has suggested that he will retreat from his role at the Trump Organization and leave the leadership of the company in the hands of his children, he has also made clear that he intends to have his children maintain integral roles in his administration and has been rumoured to seek top secret security clearance for them.
Trump has also suggested he won’t take the $400,000 annual salary during his presidential term — a position that has resonated with the American people but is also alarming. By doing this, Trump has made it unequivocal that he can support himself through his own business interests that could conflict with the country’s international agenda.
The problem is exacerbated by Trump refusing to release his tax returns. He may well take the oath of office while still be subject to a tax audit, the outcome of which remains unknown. His tax returns provide some window into his business relationships, how he pays himself and what parameters need to be introduced at the White House to ensure Trump is dealing ethically and free from bias when he takes the presidency.
Trump is now an employee of the people. He doesn’t get to enjoy the protection of a corporate veil or the luxuries of private citizenship. To run a country like a business, the man at the helm must accept business realities. A leader must be vetted, accountable, transparent and must be willing to leave his private life at the footsteps of the White House.