Trump family fundraising for St. Jude’s ($60K for coffee with Ivanka) questioned

Ozan M. Ozkural, a London-based investment manager with substantial investments in Turkey, had an apparent winning bid of nearly $60,000 for a cup of coffee with Ivanka Trump as part of fundraising for a charity that supports St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, reports the New York Times. But now he may not actually get the cup of coffee with the president-elect’s daughter.

Eric Trump  told The New York Times on Thursday that he was considering shutting down the bidding — 10 days after it started — about an hour after The Times raised questions about the auction.

The charitable fund-raising by Mr. Trump’s children is problematic, ethics lawyers said, because of the unusual role they are playing in the transition process, with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, attending meetings the president-elect had with executives from major technology companies and with the prime minister of Japan, and Mr. Trump’s oldest son, Donald Jr., helping to select the nominee for interior secretary.

… Eric Trump — who is expected to remain at the Trump Organization — said that he was trying to navigate the “new world” he is in since his father’s win.

“We’ve done this every year,” he said, referring to his foundation, which typically raises about $5 million annually, has a single paid staff member and gives almost all its revenues to St. Jude’s. “We utilized Charitybuzz to raise significant funds. Every single year we’ve auctioned off a lunch with one of ourselves. It’s nothing more than an effort to raise a lot of money in an effort to help sick children.”

In a statement, Ms. Trump said it was an “honor” to raise “additional money to benefit terminally ill children through the donation of my personal time.”

… Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit organization that promotes limiting the influence of special interests, said the role of Ms. Trump and her brother in the fund-raising effort seemed “highly inappropriate” because they were offering access in exchange for money.

Federal employees have strict restrictions on charitable solicitations, but the provision does not apply to the president.

“This is just wrong,” Mr. Wertheimer said of the auction to have coffee with Ms. Trump. “The president’s family should not be out raising money for whatever cause, in exchange for a potential influence buyer who wants to get his views to the president.”

Note: Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed providing $12 million toward St. Jude’s latest expansion plans (previous post HERE) while the City of Memphis plans to add another $25 million. See also somewhat related past post HERE.

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