A for-profit company collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government for locking up migrant children apparently decided it wasn’t such a great idea after all to hold its holiday bash at Donald Trump’s Virginia golf course, CBS News reported Monday.
Caliburn International — operator of the Homestead facility for children in Florida — had already sent out invitations to its Dec. 6 gala at the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia. Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly, who was instrumental in the president’s immigration policy, joined the company’s board after leaving the White House.
After one of the invitations was obtained and revealed by CBS, Caliburn issued a mass email to workers changing the venue.
“Our team leaders have made the decision to change the venue so that our employee holiday event is focused on the spirit of compassion and thankfulness to our employees who work every day supporting missions of humanitarian service, national security, and medical care around the world,” the company said in a later email to CBS.
A federal contractor paying for a party at a property owned by a current U.S. president appears to be unprecedented. American presidents typically divest from their businesses before taking office to avoid conflicts of interest.
“It’s hard to overstate how problematic it is for a company with billions in government contracts to be paying the president directly,” tweeted Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for CREW, told CBS: “Obviously for a contractor that has hundreds of millions of dollars in business before the federal government, I don’t think it’s any small coincidence that they’re patronizing a Trump business. These facilities are ways for people to influence the administration.”
Caliburn was formed last year when the investment company that once employed Kelly purchased Comprehensive Health Services — and other government contractors — which operated a facility for migrant children in Homestead, Florida. The site became emblematic of a cruel system of detention after visits by lawyers, activists and federal lawmakers, who described the traumatic, prison-like conditions for children.
Caliburn nearly tripled the capacity of the Homestead operation and opened up four other facilities for migrant children in Texas.
But the Homestead operation was empty by August as need for the facility in Florida diminished. Caliburn, however, continued to collect millions of dollars on its federal contract to operate the site. The Trump administration finally announced last month that it was shutting down the facility and ending the contract at the end of November.