Long before Donald Trump became president, his name was associated with one thing: money.
During his pre-White House years, his speaking engagements commanded large sums.
So it isn’t too surprising that Trump’s children, who have enjoyed much professional success in their own right and who share their father’s gilded name, would draw similar speaking fees.
But now their father is the commander-in-chief, and the name Trump isn’t just linked to money. It’s linked to power and influence.
That’s what makes us feel a little uncomfortable about an October event featuring Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, at AT&T Stadium but sponsored by the University of North Texas.
UNT’s student newspaper reported in late August that Trump will receive $100,000 for a 30-minute lecture followed by a Q&A session and a VIP photo opportunity. The contract signed by Trump also provides up to $5,000 for lodging and transportation.
There is nothing at all wrong with UNT inviting Trump to speak. The Kuehne Speaker Series, which is sponsoring the event, is a privately funded venture established in 2013 to provide a forum to engage in conversation about topics of “national and global relevance.”
That’s a worthy goal. And in an age when college campuses are often unwelcome to right-of-center speakers or those who hold heterodox viewpoints, UNT should not be faulted for headlining an event with Trump Jr.
What is disconcerting is that Trump, a de facto adviser to his father, the president, is accepting a large speaking fee for this event. We can’t help feeling that something isn’t quite right about that.
Concerns about relatives profiting from their proximity to people in office are hardly novel. They were a necessary focus of the 2016 presidential election cycle given the incredible speaking fees earned by the Clinton family, some during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Speaking fees for the Clintons were funneled into their family foundation.
According to the contract with UNT, the speaking fee will go directly to Trump Jr.’s bank account.
There are no statutes that ban such behavior, but we know that money buys influence, and $100,000 isn’t chump change, even for a Trump.
And we have a better idea for where that money could go — Harvey Relief.
Donating his speaker fee to a nonprofit working to rebuild the Texas coast would eliminate even the suggestion that Trump’s upcoming engagement is anything more than a benign business deal. And it would be a heck of a nice thing to do.
Texans sure could use that money more than Trump. We would certainly welcome the gesture.