Trump Family Uses Texas Nonprofit to Trade Access for Donation

The money will go to conservation charities.

By Rhonda Fanning December 20, 2016 11:09 am

A new Texas nonprofit is hosting an “Opening Day 2017” event the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

For a $1 million donation, participants can attend a private reception with Trump, receive tickets for a multi-day hunting or fishing trip with the president and his sons, and a few gifts like autographed guitars from Inauguration Day performers.

The brochure of the event says “all net proceeds from the Opening Day event will be donated to conservation charities.” That got the attention of reporters at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit nonpartisan investigative journalism organization.

Carrie Levine, with the organization, says the brochure caught her attention once it started circulating online.

“It was a little unusual,” she says. “It didn’t say who was hosting the event or exactly what charities would get the proceeds. So I decided to call the people involved and do a little reporting.”

Levine made a few calls, which got her to the company handling the details of the event. They said it was being put on by a new Texas charity – the Opening Day Foundation. But the company said they couldn’t tell her anything else about it.

“When I went looking for the Opening Day Foundation, I found out that it was created in Texas about a week ago and the directors included Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and two friends of Donald Trump Jr. – Gentry Beach and Tom Hicks Jr.”

Gentry Beach is a Dallas investor and Tom Hicks Jr. is the son of a Dallas billionaire.

“They’re both pretty prominent in Texas,” Levine says, “both wealthy Texans and that they raised a great deal of money for Mr. Trump’s campaign.”

Organizers said they couldn’t speak to the specific charities, but some are “conservation” and “sportsman” charities.

Levine says the event and access to Trump and his family isn’t necessarily illegal.

“This is the kind of thing where a lot of devils’ in the details,” she says. “Certainly the inaugural committee will be events where donors can spend time with the president. … Attending charitable events is something that public officials are generally allowed to do.”

It may be legal, but it does raise questions, she says.

A week ago the family took an auction offline after ethics experts raised concerns when Ivanka Trump was offering a coffee date with her to benefit the Eric Trump foundation at St. Jude’s Hospital.

“A multi-day hunting trip with Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, in exchange for high five- and six- and seven- figure donations is something that would raise similar questions,” Levine says. So I am looking forward to hearing how they respond to that.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.