USA Today reviews access to president


The Trump empire has far from fallen off since Donald J. Trump took office and some of its most profitable locations have been the president’s private golf clubs. President Trump has visited the clubs in Bedminster, N.J., and Palm Beach, Fla., among others, several times since becoming president.

Apart from being a getaway for the president, his clubs raked in $600 million in 2015 and 2016. And the upper class’s interest in the clubs has only increased in recent times.

According to USA Today, 71 of the members in his private clubs are executives from companies that hold federal contracts, lobbyists and trade group officials. Of the 71, two-thirds of them have played on one of the days that the president was visiting. This membership, which grants them open access to the president through a service that enriches him, is perfectly legal.

Despite being legal, however, it does bring up ethical concerns, primarily in regard to the possibilities for bribery and unfair access, since most people cannot afford the $100,000 initiation fees that many of the club members can. Another such case is that of Jay Vroom, CEO of a pesticide trade group that convinced the government not to ban the insecticide chlorpyrifos, which has been linked with neurological development delays in children. Vroom admitted to seeing the president once since he took office.

USA Today did a thorough and detailed story on Trump. In a section at the end of the article entitled “How we reported this story,” editors explained how reporters tracked down and interviewed as many members of Trumps clubs they could find, making use of a public golfing website where players keep track of their scores, among other sources such as social media posts and news stories. They also interviewed both sides of the story, for the sake of being objective.

From Walter Shaub, resigned director of the Office of Government Ethics, who called the situation “new territory” and expressed concern for the easy access, to Jay Vroom, who claimed to have not spoken to the president about his company’s interests at all. Overall, USA Today excelled at covering every angle of the story in great detail while remaining impartial to either side.