Just the facts first. In 2012, the Trump Organization’s Mar-a-Lago resort cut its initiation fee in half, from $200,000 to $100,000. Donald Trump was then mulling a run for the presidency, which he ultimately didn’t take that cycle. Nobody complained. In 2017, the resort restored the $200,000 fee. Shouts of “profiteering!” erupt.
CNBC initially reported the fee change, and buried this part 7 paragraphs down:
There’s no way of knowing whether demand for memberships has grown. The initiation fee for Mar-a-Lago had been $100,000 since 2012, when it was cut from $200,000. People close to the resort said the fee was reduced following a decline in memberships after the Bernie Madoff scandal, which claimed many wealthy Palm Beach victims.
I actually buy that explanation because it makes perfect sense. Exclusive resorts (and time shares, hotels and condominiums) set their initiation fee based on market forces, like supply and demand. Given that the supply of Mar-a-Lago isn’t changing, then it’s got to be the demand.
It’s not really profiteering to restore the fee back to what it was in 2012 when the club’s owner is President of the United States and demand goes off the charts. It’s what any business would do. President Trump is no longer CEO of the Trump Organization or related businesses, and presumably didn’t make this decision.
Yet the press went after him.
Indeed, shortly after the fee hike was revealed, Barack Obama’s former top ethics lawyer told MSNBC that the increase is a “not very subtle exploitation of the fact that the club’s figurehead is now president of the U.S.”
“This type of naked profiteering off of a government office is what I would expect from King Louis XVI or his modern kleptocratic equivalents, not an American president,” Norm Eisen said.
CNBC didn’t disclose (but the Washington Post did) that Eisen is part of a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. Of course he’s going to say what he said–it was a self-serving statement that the press reported without irony.
Not even Democrats believe Mar-a-Lago’s price increase is somehow raping the rich and famous who can afford it to pad the president’s pocket. Florida billionaire and Mar-a-Lago member Jeff Greene, a Clinton supporter and former Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, acknowledged that the pricing is just “a natural reflection of the club’s soaring demand.” WaPo buried that at the tail of their article.
There’s no story here, just another opportunity for sniping. If there were this much outrage at how much Democrats make from billionaires and profiteer from liberal causes, there’d be no room left in the newspapers for actual news.