Watchdog Groups File Complaints Over State Dept. Mar-A-Lago Promotion

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April 25, 2017 2:08 p.m.

Progressive advocacy group Common Cause filed a complaint Tuesday after the State Department posted promotional materials about President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club on government websites.

ShareAmerica, part of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, posted “Mar-a-Lago: The winter White House” on April 4. The article contained a brief history of Trump’s property, including his hosting of diplomatic meetings there. It was later posted on the U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom’s website and the U.S. Embassy in Albania’s Facebook page, though all posts have since been removed.

“State Department use of resources to promote a private business owned by President Trump constitutes a misuse and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Common Cause wrote in their complaint. It added later that the post and its promotion by the embassies “clearly warrant investigation.”

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The Office of Government Ethics did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. Common Cause’s letter was addressed to that office, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the inspector general of the State Department and the department’s designated agency ethics official, Katherine D. McManus.

The watchdog group American Oversight filed a similar complaint with the State Department inspector general Tuesday, noting that, if the idea to promote Mar-al-Lago originated with White House or State Department political leadership, “this would raise more serious questions about whether ethical rules and possibly prohibitions backed by criminal penalties were violated.”

“This Administration’s refusal to set clear boundaries between the business of the American people and the businesses of Donald Trump has metastasized into the federal agencies,” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said in a statement accompanying her group’s complaint.

After the “winter White House” post was removed from Share America Monday, ShareAmerica left a note left in its place:

The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.

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