Emoluments clause violation? Trump Dubai golf developer contracts with Chinese government
Golf Culture

Emoluments clause violation? Trump Dubai golf developer contracts with Chinese government

When Donald Trump became president, critics of the 45th President were rightly concerned his business interests, were he not to sell them off, would become entanglements that could pose, at a minimum, ethical problems and, at worst, lead to violations of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, which bars public officials from accepting gifts or gain financially from a foreign government.

Here's the language from Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Well, Trump didn't sell off his business. He put his adult sons in charge of operating the business, and Trump can still pull profits from those businesses at any time through a trust. He can also revoke the trust at any time.

As part of their broader responsibilities, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are then in part handling the company's deal to manage the in-development Trump World Golf Club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates -- a course designed by Tiger Woods. It's the second Trump-branded course in the emirate, following the opening of the Gil Hanse-designed Trump International Golf Club, Dubai. Both golf facilities are owned and developed by the semi state-owned DAMAC Properties.

In February, DAMAC Properties announced it had signed a $32 million deal with the Middle East subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation to help with the construction and development of Trump World Golf Club, which is slated to open in 2018. The work, according to a Trump Organization source speaking to McClatchy D.C., was "appointed by DAMAC to undertake some infrastructure work and to build one of their hospitality developments" as part of the Akoya Oxygen real-estate development in which this golf club will sit.

CSCEC has been accused of corrupt business practices in the past, particularly in its bidding for deals. The company also appeared in the Panama Papers leak of documents concerning offshore holding companies, which can be used for legitimate purposes but also for sheltering money from governments and clouding potential transparency laws.

Several media outlets reporting this story have suggested this deal could be an Emoluments Clause violation. It's possible, even if the Trump Organization didn't have a hand in selecting CSCEC work. The Trump Organization stands to benefit, albeit indirectly, from the work of a Chinese, state-owned company as their management contract likely contains some kind of guaranteed fee with incentives for running the golf course. However, the relationship between the Trump Organization and CSCEC is murky, and seemingly indirect. Since the Trump Organization will profit, even if indirectly, from the deal, payments to DAMAC from CSCEC could be construed as an emolument rather than a value-for-value exchange solely between DAMAC and CSCEC.

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