Trump Sons Not Behind ‘Opening Day’ Event, Spokeswoman SaysBy
Offer of access to president removed from event’s brochure
Non-profit’s filing listed Eric and Donald Jr. as directors
President-elect Donald Trump’s sons aren’t involved in a fundraising event for conservation charities that’s scheduled for the day after Trump’s inauguration, a spokeswoman for his transition team said Tuesday.
The announcement was contradicted by the fundraiser’s own spokesman, who said Eric and Donald Trump Jr. were honorary co-chairmen and would attend the Jan. 21 event.
The conflicting statements came after news reports linked the older Trump brothers to a fundraiser called “The Opening Day” event -- and disclosed that a brochure for the event offered donors the opportunity to spend time with the freshly sworn-in president in return for million-dollar donations.
A revised brochure that the charity, the Opening Day Foundation, released on Tuesday afternoon had removed references to meeting with the president-elect or his sons. The earlier version was first reported by TMZ, the celebrity-news website.
“The Opening Day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not been approved or pursued by the Trump family,” transition spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an e-mailed statement. “Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid outdoorsmen and supporters of conservation efforts, which align with the goals of this event, however they are not involved in any capacity.”
Yet Mark Brinkerhoff, a spokesman for the event, said the Trump brothers would attend. “Eric and Donald Jr., who are honorary co-chairman, are invited guests and will be there,” he said, adding that they aren’t members of the organizing committee.
A report about the fundraiser by the Center for Public Integrity found that the brothers were listed as directors of the charity on its Texas corporate registration, filed on Dec. 14. Regardless, “they are not directly involved in the foundation,” Brinkerhoff said. “They’re not co-founders, but they’re supportive of the foundation, which will donate net proceeds from the event to conservation charities.”
It’s the second time in as many weeks that Trump’s children and charitable fundraisers have raised concerns among government-ethics groups. A fundraising auction that offered bidders coffee with Ivanka Trump to benefit the foundation her brother Eric founded was canceled last week.
“The family has to stop stepping in it,” said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One, a government watchdog. “If the Trump transition team and administration wants to build public trust, which should be a concern given the popular vote, they need to get their radar up earlier and get better advisers.”
While access for major donors is common at presidential inaugurations, Trump’s team would be taking it to a new level with a post-inaugural fundraiser, said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog.
“It’s not as though inaugurals were bastions of populism,” Brian said. “In the past, I think candidates and politicians have been a little ashamed of the unseemliness of selling access. Now there’s no longer anyone pretending that this is not what it is.”
In addition to Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, the Opening Day Foundation’s initial corporate filing lists Gentry Beach, a Dallas-based hedge fund manager, and Tom Hicks Jr., son of billionaire Tom Hicks, as directors. Beach and Hicks were among Trump’s top fundraisers in Texas, and are also on the transition team’s finance committee.
The McIntosh Company, a Dallas-based fundraising and consulting firm for political committees and nonprofits, is collecting donations for the event. It raised money for Trump Victory, the committee that collected funds from big donors for Trump, the Republican National Committee and state parties. Trump Victory paid the firm $240,000 for its services.
Packages range from $1 million -- which, according to the revised brochure, buy a private reception with unnamed VIPs and celebrities, four guitars autographed by an Opening Day performer and other perks -- down to a $1,500 general admission ticket to the event, which will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington.
The brochure says the event will celebrate outdoor sports, including shooting and fishing, and recommends attire of camouflage and cuff links, with “jeans, boots and hats” welcome. Country music star Toby Keith and the band Alabama will be featured entertainment, along with others yet to be named.