During this first week of the Drumpf Debacle, an organization filed a lawsuit against Drumpf alleging his continued ownership in his business interests violates the Emoluments Clause in the United States Constitution.
One obstacle this lawsuit will have to overcome is the question of standing. For a person to sue another entity, that person has to show it has been harmed in some way. So, does this organization that filed the lawsuit have standing? Has it been harmed by Drumpf taking money from foreign powers (i.e. by having foreign officials stay in Drumpf-owned hotels)?
Michael Dorf, writing in Newsweek, says yes in this article.
Michael McConnell, appearing on National Public Radio, says no in this story.
For this post, I would like to offer my plan on how to sue Drumpf for enriching himself due to the governmental position he holds and how to have standing.
The basis for this plan is the news item that Drumpf’s Florida resort, Mar-A-Lago, has decided to hike its initiation fee to $200,000. This fee had been “only” $100,000, but was raised to $150,000 sometime during 2016 (Reuters says June, CNNMoney says September). So, in the course of a year, when the owner of the organization that runs the resort becomes a hot commodity by being named a major political party’s presidenital nominee and then ascends to the office of the President of the United States, it’s just pure coincidence that said resort raises its initiation fee the same time it sees an uptick in membership.
Yeah, pure coincidence. Just like the pure coincidence that of the seven countries Drumpf listed in his ban (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya), none of those countries have any business dealings with Drumpf. However, Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers is not mentioned in Drumpf’s Executive Order. The Kingdom of Saudia Arabia is also home to, according to the story linked above, “…several limited liability companies [of the Drumpf Organization] in preparation for an attempt to build a hotel in Saudi Arabia.”
Okay, back to Mar-A-Lago.
It is true that membership to Mar-A-Lago is not open to the public. To be considered for membership, one has to be sponsored by an existing member. So, imagine if you will, that back in January 2016, Donald, a member, invited Carlos to join Mar-A-Lago. Carlos, being a somewhat successful salesman of refurbished accordions, had no issue with paying an initiation fee of $100K. However, as bureaucracies run slow and paperwork takes time, it has taken a year to work through Carlos’s application and he is now asked to pony up $200K for his initiation fee.
It can be argued in court that the doubling of the price of a Drumpf-owned resort is solely due to the increased luster in Drumpf’s brand after his November 2016 victory. This additional fee will go into the Drumpf Organization’s coffers which will ultimately make its way into Drumpf’s bank account. Therefore, Drumpf has profited from his position. The person who has been hurt by this is Carlos – or any other prospective member – who now has to pay a doubling of a fee.
It may not be a perfect standing, but I bet it goes a smidge farther than what the people at the CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) are claiming: that Drumpf’s unethical behavior is harming them because they have to spend resources documenting and fighting against his unethical behavior.