Trump’s financial factor
The presidential candidate’s business ties may present too many conflicts of interest
Many times during the current presidential campaign, charges have been flung back and forth by the major nominees that the other candidate is “disqualified.” In most cases, this means that one candidate simply doesn’t like the other’s views or personality. But a report last month detailing the complexities of real estate mogul Donald Trump various property holdings across the U.S. and abroad indeed, totally disqualifies him from ever being president of the United States.
No candidate from a major party has ever had financial dealings of such extensive complexity. Furthermore, we have no way of knowing the completeness or accuracy of his financial disclosures. None of the released information has been subjected to audit by an independent, professional accounting firm. The United States Office of Government Ethics is responsible for reviewing Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure forms as filed with the Federal Election Commission, but the agency’s procedures do not include any form of audit or verification and specifically state that disclosures are to be taken at “face value.” A commonly accepted way of beginning to understand an individual’s financial affairs is to review his personal tax return, but as we have heard many times over, Mr. Trump has steadfastly refused to release his IRS Form 1040, the first presidential candidate in over 50 years to do so.
As president, Mr. Trump would have the authority to make a vast range of decisions that would directly impact his substantial net worth. Tax, regulatory, monetary, and environmental issues, among others, would raise obvious conflict-of-interest issues that would have to be addressed before Mr. Trump could assume the duties of president. For example, Mr. Trump has campaigned on a promise to implement massive cuts in personal and corporate taxes, which most economists agree would result in much larger budget deficits and therefore higher interest rates in order to avoid inflationary pressures; this is certainly the record of what happened following the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Would Mr. Trump be willing to place his real estate empire in jeopardy because of higher interest rates in order to live up to a campaign promise? How should we view his promise to eliminate the estate tax, a change of enormous benefit to the wealthy, including himself? The man’s demonstrated proclivity to focus solely on himself when presented with an issue leaves little doubt as to which course he would pursue.
The measures that would normally be followed as a means of insulating a candidate from conflicts of interest are not available to solve Mr. Trump’s unique situation. A clear example can be seen in the steps Henry Paulson took when he left his position as CEO of Goldman Sachs to become Treasury Secretary in the Bush administration. Mr. Paulson’s holdings in Goldman, a public entity, were sold and the proceeds placed in a “blind trust,” where the funds were reinvested totally under the control of an independent trustee. But it would be impossible to follow the same steps with Mr. Trump’s complex maze of private entities, mainly because they would take years to liquidate, assuming they could be sold at all. He could be confident that the same assets would be there when his term as president was finished and potentially increased in value substantially by policy decisions that he made while in office.
Mr. Trump himself has indicated that his children would most likely assume responsibility for running his company, but this suggestion cannot be taken seriously as a way of insulating him from conflicts of interest. Indeed, it would only make the situation worse. One wonders if Mr. Trump has actually considered any of these issues as his quixotic candidacy has moved through the nomination and now the general election process. Many have wondered how serious he has been about his chances in that process from the beginning. But we are now in totally unchartered waters.
Given that the office of president of the United States must be held to the absolute highest of moral and ethical standards, professionalism, and avoidance of conflicts of interest, and given the fact that there is no way of insulating Mr. Trump from such conflicts, there is only one rational conclusion: Donald Trump is categorically disqualified from serving as president.
Protesters march down a Miami street holding a sign urging Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to release his tax returns, which he has thus far refused to do.