In the past year, Donald Trump's golf resort in Doral has lost a whopping $26 million in value. Hotel executives have blamed the president's politics: Liberal Northeasterners would rather vacation elsewhere, and organizers for NASCAR and PGA Tour events simply don't want the bad PR.
But a few types of organizations still routinely host events at Trump National Doral Miami: Republican political campaigns, opportunistic trade groups, and, for whatever reason, police unions and associations.
This past weekend, the LEO Foundation — an organization that fundraises for police officers in Miami-Dade County — held its annual awards ceremony at the Doral golf resort. Last month, the Hispanic Police Officers Association threw a Valentine's Day gala there. The Dade County Police Benevolent Association, the largest police union in the county, has also booked Trump National Doral for its annual awards gala in May.
None of the three organizations responded to questions from New Times asking why the venue was chosen.
Since Trump began his campaign for president, a number of organizations have been called out for holding events at his properties. Critics say the setup gives the appearance of pay-for-play, and sometimes the arrangement seems pretty transparent. After the payday lending industry held its conference at Trump Doral last year, for example, the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era rules that restricted how payday loans are extended.
Although the police groups don't have such a blatant financial interest in booking events at Trump's hotel, the arrangement is worth noting given the president's statements about police brutality and his fraught relationship with law enforcement.
In a bizarre speech in 2017, Trump famously told cops: "Don't be too nice" when arresting suspects. He's repeatedly lied about violent crimes being on the rise, when in fact the rates are at near-historic lows. The president has also supported stiffer penalties for those who attack
Police associations gathering at other Trump venues in Florida have been criticized in the past. Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold notes the president filmed a special video for the Palm Beach Police Foundation at a recent Mar-a-Lago gala, "providing a service only available to his own customers, who're paying him money in his private capacity."
This is at least the 2nd time @realDonaldTrump has recorded a video for a Mar-a-Lago banquet. He also did it for the PB Police Fdn gala.— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) February 25, 2019
In these cases, POTUS is providing a service *only* available to his own customers, who're paying him money in his private capacity. Unusual. https://t.co/OYcPi8Ll3p
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The Jupiter Police Foundation also has an upcoming gala at Trump's golf club there. The group told the Palm Beach Post the venue was the only one large enough to accommodate 500 guests, but reporter Alexandra Clough pointed out a major conflict of interest: One of the board members who helped book the venue happens to be the general manager of the golf club.
Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer who serves on the board for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, told the Post the arrangement might violate the domestic emoluments clause, which says those who hold federal office can't profit from federal, state, or local governments:
"Even though the Jupiter Police Foundation, and not the police department itself, is having the event at a Trump-owned property, Painter said the foundation raises money for the official functions of a governmental entity.
In addition, Painter said the arrangement raises the risk of a quid pro quo that could tilt the police department’s decision-making more favorably toward the club. ...
But Painter said the quid pro quo could go the other way. For example, the federal government might be more likely to confer favors on a police department that patronized Trump’s private business."
The next police event at Trump National Doral appears to be the May 18 Dade County PBA's annual gala, which was also held there last year. PBA president Steadman Stahl did not respond to New Times' request for comment.