In the fallout from the announcement yesterday that the 2020 Group of 7 (aka G7) meeting will take place in June at the Trump National Doral resort near Miami, some are questioning whether the property is in good enough shape to host government and finance ministers from seven leading industrial nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
And if it's not, how much taxpayer money might be used to upgrade the property, directly benefiting one of President Donald J. Trump's businesses?
According to Mother Jones, a reader-supported investigative news organization, Trump's annual personal financial disclosure shows that the Doral's revenues have been declining, from $92 million in 2015 to about $75 million in 2018. Meanwhile, local property tax filings report the resort's profitability slipped from $13.8 million to $4.3 million between 2015 and 2017.
Much chatter on Twitter indicates the property is in need of renovations, which would likely come from U.S. coffers. The 2019 G7, held in Biarritz, France, in August, was estimated to have cost French taxpayers about $40.5 million to host the event, according to Mother Jones.
As reported by the Associated Press, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in announcing Trump National Doral as host, said the property was chosen for its location and amenities, and that the president will not profit because the resort will be booked "at cost." But any upgrades to the Doral would benefit Trump Hotels in the future.
All of the noise surrounding the choice bothers Amaia P. Stecker, owner and lead designer of Pilar & Co., an Alexandria, Va.-based event-planning agency. Formerly deputy press secretary for the Senate Budget Committee, she now specializes in government-relations meetings. From the perspective of a meeting planner, she said, "You don't want your venue to make the news. You want the outcome to make the news. You don't want to distract from the outcome." Stecker added, "If we're holding the events industry to an ethical standard of hosting meetings at a neutral destination that doesn't benefit an individual, this does not fit that standard."
The decision to use Trump's resort for such a high-profile political gathering comes as the president is party to several lawsuits that accuse him of violating the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bans the president from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments. Noted Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano in response to the selection of the Doral, "[Trump] has bought himself an enormous headache now with the choice of this. This is about as direct and profound a violation of the emoluments clause as one could create."