Trump’s Tax-Funded Branding Is Weird but Not Unexpected: Ethics Expert

  • Pushing for-profit projects on the taxpayer dime is Trump’s latest break from tradition.
  • He’s using government resources to promote his private golf clubs and book sales.
  • Trump “just doesn’t care about the appearance issue,” an ethics professional told Insider.

On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump alerted the nation that there were “100,000 brand new, sparkling copies” of his picture book available for sale from a publishing house co-founded by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. 

During the past week, Trump has also blasted out emails touting Trump-owned golf clubs in Miami, Los Angeles, and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump’s relentless marketing was not, however, issued by his business empire, the Trump Organization. Instead, it came from a federal government-funded office provided to him by the Former Presidents Act.

The constant plugs for family business ventures Trump weaves into the email blasts from his taxpayer-subsidized, post-presidential office are “unsavory” but not unexpected, an ethics professional said, given that he’s flouted ethics rules since entering political life. 

“The presidency was one giant business center for him. And we should not be surprised that he’s continuing to do it,” Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at the George Washington University Law School who teaches anti-corruption courses, said of Trump’s penchant for monetizing his every move. 


Donald Trump included a plug for his West Palm Beach golf club in a recent message from his taxpayer-funded, post-presidential office.

Donald Trump included a plug for his West Palm Beach golf club in a recent message from his taxpayer-funded, post-presidential office.


Tillipman said the shilling is unlikely to stop anytime soon. 

“It’s not abnormal for presidents to leave office and sign big book deals,” she told Insider. “It’s abnormal to literally profit off of absolutely everything that you’re doing. And he’s been blurring that line since he took office.” 

Trump’s outside entanglements were an omnipresent issue throughout his single term in office.

He bucked tradition by never releasing his personal tax returns, something past presidents have done to clarify potential conflicts of interests. Meanwhile, the family maintained control of a pricey hotel in DC that ethics watchdogs called an “epicenter of corruption” after foreign powers spent millions there cozying up to MAGA world. 

“Other presidents have chosen, when in office, to divest themselves of their financial interests or do other things to ensure that their constituents and the taxpayers are not worried that they’re trying to profit off their presidency. Trump made no bones about the fact that he did not care about that,” Tillipman said. “And the very limited restrictions we have on presidents didn’t do anything to stop him.” 

She added that while the Former Presidents Act may not specifically restrict Trump-style cash-grabs, his predecessors, who also received funding for official, post-presidential offices, have typically behaved differently. 

“A lot of these things come down to, ‘does this look bad’ versus ‘is it prohibited,'” Tillipman said. “He’s just uniquely skilled at profiting off of absolutely everything. And, frankly, just doesn’t care about the appearance issue.” 

Trump’s office and a personal spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment about his non-stop sales pitches.