CORONAVIRUS

Number Of Trump Campaign Donors On Back-To-Work Council Raises Ethics Alarm: Report

Businesses may press to lift coronavirus restrictions too early, and Trump has millions of reasons to listen to them.

At least 25 members of President Donald Trump’s new back-to-work council, tasked with reviving the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, have made substantial donations to his reelection campaign, raising serious ethical concerns, ABC News reported Friday.

It’s an example of how “writing big checks to the president and a super PAC means that your voice is heard louder than many others,” Brendan Fischer, a federal reforms director at the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center, told ABC.

The concern for the public is that the business leaders who bankroll Trump’s campaign can press their interests over the health of Americans — such as reopening stores, hotels or casinos too early, triggering a new surge of coronavirus infections.

One member of the president’s advisory council is longtime Trump supporter and friend Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival, which is incorporated in Panama. The company’s cruise ships have been virus hot spots, with at least 1,500 infections leading to 39 deaths. Carnival has been criticized for continuing to operate after the risk was known. A quick restart of the cruise industry could have catastrophic consequences.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Treasure Island Hotels owner Phil Ruffin are also on the 220-member council and its hospitality industry group. Adelson contributed $5 million to the president’s inaugural committee and has given $15 million to Trump-associated super PACs, according to ABC. Ruffin donated close to $1 million to Trump Victory, the president’s joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee, and another $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, the network reported. 

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus — who has given $7 million to super PACs supporting Trump — is on the council’s retail group along with Home Depot’s CEO and another co-founder, Ken Langone, ABC reported.

Though several members are not campaign contributors, Trump’s choices skew heavily to the private sector. The council’s health care group, for example, is headed by leaders of pharmaceutical companies, which stand to profit from White House decisions.

“It’s bizarre to me that there’s nobody representing public health,” Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told ABC. “You need to have public health professionals, you need somebody who represents the grocery workers, somebody who represents hospitality workers, and so on.”

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere didn’t dispute the information in the ABC report. Trump is “beginning a dialogue with prominent and successful individuals across multiple industries with different backgrounds and skillsets for the monumental task of re-opening the American economy,” he said in a statement. 


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