Proposed Fundraiser Featuring Trump's Sons Raises Questions An online invitation to a charity event raised questions about exchanging huge charitable donations for face time with Trumps' oldest sons. The invitation was later removed from the event website.

Proposed Fundraiser Featuring Trump's Sons Raises Questions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/506337200/506337204" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you have a lot of money to spare and want to spend time with the Trump family right after the inauguration, it seemed like earlier today, you might be able to make that dream come true. A new nonprofit organization had advertised access to the Trumps at a big charity event to be held January 21. The online invitation raised questions about exchanging huge charitable donations for face time with Trump's oldest sons. Now the site just says coming soon. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The night after-party is called Opening Day. It has a shooting, fishing and conservation theme. The president's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, were prominently mentioned in the invitation online. They're listed as directors on the nonprofit's official filing with the Texas secretary of state.

An early version of the invitation said Trump himself would be at a reception for the million-dollar and $500,000 donors. But late this afternoon, the Trump transition team described the event and details as initial concepts that haven't been approved or pursued by the Trump family.

Broadly speaking, such a fundraiser would resemble what goes on in Washington every day. But in other ways, it would be a shocker - for starters, the price tag. Political money and ethics lawyer Ken Gross said politicians are always doing receptions, sometimes for politics, sometimes for charity. That said, it's one thing if donors ante up $5,000 or $10,000.

KEN GROSS: But when they're giving very huge sums to a charitable foundation, then it's - can be just not a matter of quantity. It can change the kind of relationship with the individual.

OVERBY: The post-inaugural event on January 21 was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity and the website TMZ. It came days after the news that Ivanka Trump was offering a 45-minute coffee date as an auction item for her brother Eric's private foundation before it was canceled amid criticism.

The propriety of these charity fundraisers was question number one today when the Trump transition team briefed reporters. Did the president-elect have a policy, or will he make one on his children's offers of access for contributions? Jason Miller is the transition team's spokesman.

JASON MILLER: I've not spoken yet with the president-elect on that particular issue. I'm happy to ask him, try to get back to you with an answer.

OVERBY: Another question - why did the organizers even float the idea of having Trump family members headline a charity event, especially one where the specific charities had not even been designated? Frances Hill, a tax law professor at the University of Miami, said that if donors wanted to give big money to charities, they could do it directly.

FRANCES HILL: There's no reason to make it a three-party transaction. It's the dynamic of currying favor and access with the powerful, and nobody cares as much about the money as about the access.

OVERBY: She pointed out that the contributions going to access events are tax-deductible. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.