Is Trump Corrupt? Golf Club Members Include Lobbyists and Contractors Who Gain Access to President

Trump golf course
A motorcade with President Donald Trump arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, on June 3. AFP via Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski

President Donald Trump has faced heavy criticism for the time he has spent on golf during his first eight months in office, both for chastising his predecessor, Barack Obama, about his golf outings and for his campaign promises that he would be too busy running the country to hit the links.

Now a new report indicates the number of Trump trips to golf courses may not be the only issue. Questions are also being raised about whom Trump has run into at his courses, and about the amount of money they pay to be members at the luxurious sites.

The members include business executives, lobbyists and even federal government contractors who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership fees and annual dues that afford them access to Trump's clubs and courses—but could also be viewed as paying for potential time with the president, USA Today reported Wednesday.

Altogether, the report found that a minimum of 50 executives running companies that have federal contracts, as well as 21 lobbyists and trade group officials, are members of Trump clubs in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia. Two-thirds of them played golf on at least one of the 58 days that Trump has visited while president.

The membership initiation fees can cost up to $100,000, and dues must be paid on top of that.

A major sticking point in the Trump presidency has been the idea that he could be profiting from his time in office and the potential conflicts of interest involving his global business empire. For example, the Trump International Hotel in Washington hosted an event that raised money for the Republican National Committee, but the process by which the hotel obtained its lease is now under a federal investigation.

Eyebrows were also raised when it was revealed that the president's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, doubled its membership fee to $200,000 at the start of the year.

Although it is not illegal for the executives and lobbyists to pay membership fees and dues to a country club, the USA Today report does suggest that Trump and business and government insiders could be blurring ethical lines.

Other members of his clubs include a lobbyist for the South Korean government; a lawyer representing Saudi Arabia as it tries to fend off claims related to the September 11 attacks; and a representative of a pesticide trade group that was able to lobby the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency to keep a potentially dangerous insecticide on the market.

USA Today used social media posts and a public website where golfers post their handicaps to unearth the names of 4,500 members of Trump's clubs.

The members who spoke on the record to the newspaper said they had never used their potential access to the president for anything other than playing golf, but the report also found that Trump would often play a quick round and then hang around the club and with its members.

The amount of time Trump has spent not only away from the White House but at his own properties has been met with widespread derision. By the middle of August, Trump had spent 69 days, or 33 percent of his then 208 days in office, at properties that bear his name, according to The Washington Post.