Politics

Ivanka Trump's Auction Item Disappears After Raising Ethics Concerns

December 16th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

An online bidding war for a coffee date with incoming first daughter Ivanka Trump ended abruptly on Friday, when the site disappeared, NPR reports.

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New York Times reporter Eric Lipton — who co-authored a Thursday story on the auction that argued it posed ethical concerns — tweeted a screenshot of a failed attempt to find the auction page on Friday. (ATTN: also searched for it and could not find the page.)

The auction was initially set to end on Tuesday, as you can see in screenshots tweeted by Lipton. Representatives for Ivanka Trump and the transition team did not respond to requests for comment from ATTN:.

Several of the bidders intended to address policy issues with the first daughter, the Times reported.

The auction for time for with the first daughter, hosted on the site CharityBuzz, was part of a fundraiser for the Eric Trump Foundation. Its proceeds would have gone to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Here's what it looked like on Thursday:

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ATTN: reached out to CharityBuzz and the Eric Trump Foundation and will update this post as necessary.

Bidders included a restaurant owner hoping to pressure Trump on immigration policy and "a fringe presidential candidate from Florida who wants to send a message to Mr. Trump about election fraud," the Times reported.

Investment manager Ozan M. Ozkural told Times he was bidding for the meeting to gain insight into President-elect Donald Trump's agenda in regards to countries he does business in.

“The nature of my business, we talk to a lot of different governments, a lot of politicians and lawmakers across the world,” Mr. Ozkural, who invests in Turkey, told the Times. “You end up getting a better sense of what the modus operandi will be.”

The auction raised eyebrows.

Critics argue that Ivanka's proximity to the President-elect meant that the bidding war is actually selling is access to someone with significant political influence.

“You never, ever want to have government officials using their public office for the private gain, even for a worthy charity,” former Obama administration ethics lawyer Norm Eisen told the Times. "That was how we did it."

Anti-corruption nonprofit Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer told the Times he found Ivanka and Eric Trump's involvement in the site “highly inappropriate.”

“This is just wrong,” Wertheimer said. “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.”

However, the laws that restrict others federal employees' charitable donations do not pertain to the president, the Times report adds.

Eric Trump's response to the New York Times report:

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From the Times:

"'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.'"

Approximately an hour after the Times published the report, Eric Trump told the Times he was thinking about closing the auction. ATTN: reached out to representatives of Ivanka Trump and the transition team about the matter. We will will update this post if necessary.

Ivanka's role in the transition and prospective influence on the Trump administration has been in an issue of concern in recent weeks.

She attended a November meeting with the prime minister of Japan and was present at a Wednesday meeting between the President-elect and executives from the technology industry. This week, anonymous sources from the transition team have told news outlets she plans to work out of the East Wing and is lobbying members of congress on childcare benefits.

An anti-nepotism law prevents elected officials from hiring or appointing family members. However, Trump transition team senior advisor Kennyanne Coway recently brought up a loophole in an appearance on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." The loophole rests on a 1993 federal court ruling about Hillary Clinton serving on a White Care healthcare task force during her tenure as first lady, Time reported Thursday.

If Ivanka is appointed to serve in her father's administration or advises him in an informal capacity, her brand "Women Who Work" and relationship with the Trump Organization could pose conflicts of interest, as Business Insider reports.