This week, we launched a campaign to tackle the latest in Trump’s conflicts of interest. With the help of Courage Campaign, we’re bringing attention to President Trump’s potential violation of the domestic emoluments clause in the US Constitution.
Our DivestTrumpSoHo.org initiative petitions two major U.S. public pension funds in California and New York to divest their funds from CIM Fund III, a real estate company that owns the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in New York City. As reported in The Atlantic,
Though the details of most of the Trump Organization’s licensing agreements are private, the licensing deal for Trump SoHo, according to The New York Times, gives the Trump Organization equity in the property, meaning that the president’s company profits based on how well Trump SoHo performs. That means that the pension funds, which are drawn from mandatory deductions from the paychecks of more than 5 million public-sector employees across seven states, are therefore indirectly paying the Trump Organization to operate Trump SoHo.
These pension funds create a conflict of interest that corrupts the relationship between state and federal governments — and they create just the possibility for corruption that the Constitution’s framers feared.
Jed Shugerman, a law professor at Fordham University, explains to The Atlantic that the domestic emoluments clause was written to avoid such a scenario:
The reason why the framers put the domestic emoluments clause in the Constitution is because they were concerned about the relationships of states vs. other states. Could big states, could rich states, wield more influence over the federal governments? One way that they worried rich states could wield more influence is by paying presidents directly. To avoid even the appearance of improper influence, they created a blanket rule: no emoluments from states.
Summed up nicely:
Whether the states intend it or not, and whether Trump recognizes it or not, that financial relationship and the feelings of good will and reciprocity it may create could very well lead the president to favor one state or a collection of states over others—or to lash out if one of the states’ funds were to divest from a company linked to his business.
It’s time to stop future investments of public pension funds into Trump SoHo. Now is the time to Divest Trump SoHo!