Pro-hydroxychloroquine industry group booked Trump Hotel D.C.

Nonprofit pushing for free enterprise to pay the president’s business via $250 and up luncheon honoring prominent Trump supporter and donor

A conservative pro-business nonprofit that’s pushing the federal government to approve hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus and has members vying for federal bailout funds has booked the president’s D.C. hotel for a pricey lunch and VIP reception in September.

As the luncheon originally was slated for April 30 and a cached web page shows the event was advertised as early as March 11, it’s likely that the group had booked the Trump Hotel D.C. before there would have been much interest in medical or financial remedies to COVID-19.

Nevertheless, this transaction demonstrates what many would think of as a textbook example of what’s wrong with President Donald J. Trump retaining his businesses interests—namely that a nonprofit trying to influence the government on multiple fronts can spend thousands at a property the U.S. president owns and can profit from. And more reasons to want to sway the government may well lead to greater attendance at a pro-business luncheon at the president’s hotel—and more money for the Trump Organization (based on a contract for a different event that 1100 Pennsylvania received via a Freedom of Information Act request).

Tickets for the Job Creators Network’s Salute to Bernie Marcus: Defender of Free Enterprise luncheon range from $250 for an individual to $100,000 for the event co-host package. Marcus is the co-founder of both JCN and Home Depot. Marcus is also a major GOP donor and Trump supporter. [UPDATE April 15, 2020 8:20 a.m.: On Tuesday, Trump named Marcus to White House Opening Our Country council.]

Per its website, JCN’s mission is to educate the employees of Main Street America about the many government policies getting in the way of economic freedom and the success of small businesses.

Funded in part by a drug industry trade group, JCN is also pressuring the government to approve the use of the unproven hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.

Last month via targeted Facebook ads and text messages, the group “steer[ed] recipients to a petition to President Trump that asks him to ‘immediately cut through this red tape’ to get more hydroxychloroquine into the marketplace, noting the drug is in short supply,” reported Julie Bykowicz for The Wall Street Journal.

As for why a nonprofit focused on spreading The Word about the value of small businesses might have been doing the bidding of the drug industry, from “Pharma-funded group tied to a top Trump donor is promoting malaria drug to the president” by Donald Shaw for Sludge:

Job Creators Network has been funded by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a drug industry trade that counts among its members leading hydroxychloroquine makers Novartis, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Bayer. According to tax documents, PhRMA donated $500,000 to Job Creators Network in 2017. 

President Trump later cited Marcus in an April 12 tweet criticizing Congress.

The luncheon’s organizer has not replied to an inquiry asking when and why the Trump Hotel D.C. was originally booked.

JNC’s website lists 99 partner groups from a variety of sectors, including realtors, restaurant associations, and chambers of commerce—all with interests before the federal government.

And given the prominence JCN’s website gives to the Paycheck Protection Program, it seems likely many members are interested in applying for government-backed loans that can convert into grants.

While JCN’s site claims the group is “nonpartisan,” there’s no shortage of pro-Trump, anti-Democrat tweets from an account appearing to belong the the organization.


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Notable sightings

A glimpse of the foreign officials, government employees, politicians, lobbyists, and the like who patronize or appear at Trump businesses. (Or a lot of empty seats!) Most people shown here have reasons to want to influence the Trump administration, rely on its good graces for their livelihoods, or should be providing oversight. Additionally, high-profile guests serve as draws for paying customers.

In the past few weeks, managing director Mickael Damelincourt has shared many photos from the void that is the Trump Hotel D.C., making it clear that unlike many other luxury hotels, the president’s business does not appear to be housing coronavirus patients or first responders.

Damelincourt, however, does wish the first responders God’s blessings.


Reference section

Links to rundowns of developments in the House’s investigations and lawsuits, reference sheets for some of 1100 Pennsylvania’s previous reporting, and articles that provide the background on why all of this matters. The date published or last updated is in parentheses.

Trackers

Notable hotel customers

Summaries

  • 25 unimpeachable examples of Trump profiting from his hotel: Foreign governments, Trump administration, GOP lawmakers, industry all have called on the Trump Hotel D.C. since its owner became president (Sept. 27, 2019)

  • Power tripping in the swamp: How Trump’s D.C. hotel swallowed Washington
    The MAGA social scene is a movable feast, but its dark heart resides within the Old Post Office Building, where the Trump Org operates under a mercenary charter” by your correspondent for Vanity Fair (October 2019)

  • Inside the world’s most controversial hotel: The hotel that was expected to take its place among the crown jewels of D.C.’s travel scene has become a magnet for protestors, a West Wing Annex, and—possibly—the center of a constitutional crisis.” by your correspondent for Condé Nast Traveler (May 2018)

Upcoming key dates

  • Sept. 23, 2019—House Judiciary Committee hearing “Presidential corruption: Emoluments and profiting off the presidency” (postponed, not yet rescheduled)

  • March 20, 2020—Status hearing before D.C. Superior Court in former hotel employees’ lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, postponed due to coronavirus-related closure

  • Sometime between May 4–13, 2020—Via telephone conference, the Supreme Court hears Trump’s appeal of earlier rulings requiring his financial institutions to comply with subpoenas from House Financial Services, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees and the New York district attorney’s office

  • June 2020—Before postponement of oral arguments due to a coronavirus-related closure, Supreme Court decision due on Trump’s appeal of earlier rulings requiring his financial institutions to comply with subpoenas from House Financial Services, Intelligence, and Oversight

  • Aug. 10, 2020—Scheduling conference before D.C. Superior Court in D.C. attorney general’s lawsuit alleging improperly spent nonprofit funds by the Trump Hotel D.C. and Trump’s inaugural committee

  • Oct. 29, 2020—Mediation session in at least a one-time Trump appointee in the Commerce Department’s lawsuit against the Trump Hotel D.C., alleging a shard of glass from a sabered bottle of champagne left a gash in her chin


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