Inauguration Event With Ties to Trump Foundation and Dallas Donors Postponed After Ethics Questions

WASHINGTON -- A controversial event planned for inauguration week, which at one point appeared to feature an opportunity for paid access to President-elect Donald Trump, has been postponed until the spring.Earlier this month, a widely circulated draft invitation to an “Opening Day” gala promised a private reception with the president-elect to the event’s major donors. Those who donated more than $1 million would also be invited on a multi-day hunting or fishing trip with one of Trump’s two adult sons.The gala was attached to the newly organized Opening Day Foundation, which listed both Don Trump Jr. and Eric Trump as registrants, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. Other registrants included Trump supporters Tommy Hicks Jr., the eldest son of Dallas billionaire Tom Hicks, and Dallas hedge fund manager Gentry Beach.After the foundation attracted widespread media attention, the Trump sons’ names were removed from its registration documents.It’s unclear how much the Trump sons knew about the foundation in advance. A Trump transition spokeswoman said the family had not approved, or even been involved with, the event at all. But Hicks Jr. told The Dallas Morning News that the charity was originally Donald Trump Jr.’s idea.“We just wanted to do something that honors and raises money for conservation efforts, which is a very important thing for Don Jr. and Eric,” Hicks Jr. said, adding that he didn’t realize the charity would be “newsworthy.”And last week, a spokesman for the event, Mark Brinkerhoff, sent The News an updated brochure, which had removed the offers of a private reception and hunting trip with the Trumps, but continued to list Donald Jr. and Eric as honorary co-chairmen.“This isn't about glad-handing with the president. That's not what this event is designed to be," Brinkerhoff said.Several ethics experts raised concerns about the idea of donors paying for access to the president-elect’s family, noting that the idea of routing donations through charity events meant that normal campaign finance laws would not apply.On Wednesday, a statement issued by the event’s co-chairmen - including Beach and Hicks Jr., but neither of the Trumps - announced the gala would be held in the spring.“Opening Day is an active opportunity to help advance the much needed conservation efforts that will protect America’s natural beauty and bounty for generations to come,” the announcement said. “We look forward to providing you with additional details in the near future.”Spokesmen for the foundation and for the Trump transition team could not be reached for comment.The Opening Day gala was not the only charity-related controversy the Trump family has faced in recent weeks. Eric Trump’s personal charity, which raises money for cancer research, tried to auction off a private meeting with his sister Ivanka. The action was called off after it attracted scrutiny from ethics experts, which prompted a swift complaint from the president-elect.“My wonderful son, Eric, will no longer be allowed to raise money for children with cancer because of a possible conflict of interest with my presidency,” Trump tweeted. “Isn’t this a ridiculous shame?”The president-elect also announced he would be shutting down his own charitable foundation, which is under investigation by the New York attorney general. The inquiry was prompted by multiple reports by The Washington Post, which showed that the Trump Foundation had apparently used donors’ money to settle lawsuits for Trump’s for-profit businesses. Other money went to personal expenditures, including two large portraits of Trump himself.Trump also expressed unhappiness with this decision, tweeting that he “gave millions of dollars to DJT Foundation, raised or received millions more, ALL of which is given to charity, and the media won’t report.”But Trump has declined to release any tax returns that would show proof of such donations, and a months-long investigation by The Washington Post revealed that Trump’s personal donations have fallen far short of his promises for several years.  Continue reading...

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