WASHINGTON, D.C. Sept. 5, 2017– President Donald Trump formed at least 49 business entities since announcing his candidacy – some even after winning in November and taking office in January – highlighting the ongoing conflicts of interest that plague his presidency, a new Public Citizen report on Trump’s financial disclosures shows.
The data, which also documents Trump’s stake in more than 500 businesses, underscores the urgent need for the president to disclose his tax returns so Americans can determine the extent of his business holdings and how they may be affecting his policy decisions, Public Citizen maintains.
The report, “President Trump Inc.,” is part of a new Public Citizen project featuring an interactive data map, an animated video and a downloadable dataset that inventories what can be gleaned from Trump’s federal financial disclosure forms, and Delaware and New York business filings.
The interactive data map shows all of the businesses Trump has disclosed on his federal financial disclosure forms. It also offers all of the data Trump has disclosed relating to each business, such as its reported underlying assets and income, liabilities and place of business. Public Citizen has supplemented the data by determining the jurisdiction in which most of the businesses are registered, their registered agents and dates of formation. The data map also provides lines of connection between the businesses, offering users the ability to trace the ownership connections of the hundreds of entities.
Although just prior to being inaugurated as president, Trump announced plans to “separate” himself from his business empire, he still maintains ownership in his corporations and merely reshuffled his businesses into holding companies that are held by a trust that is controlled by Trump himself.
“Our current president has two jobs: leader of the free world and owner of hundreds of business entities worldwide. That combination is toxic for democracy,” said Michael Tanglis, senior researcher for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and coordinator of the project. “The financial disclosure forms provide a road map for anyone – wealthy individuals or corporations, foreign or domestic, friend or foe – to buy favor with the president of the United States.”
Among Public Citizen’s findings:
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- Trump has created at least 49 business entities since he announced his bid for the Republican nomination on June 16, 2015. Roughly half of the entities were related to projects in foreign countries, including Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
- Seven days after he announced his candidacy for president, Trump formed more businesses than he had on any previous day. The businesses were related to projects in Indonesia. Months later, Trump brought Indonesian politicians out on the campaign trail with him, one of whom was later forced out of office amid corruption allegations.
- The typical ownership structure of Trump’s businesses is like a Russian nesting doll, with businesses contained within businesses. Adding to the complexity, multiple nested entities contain parts of each other.
- The federal financial disclosure form questions on income and liabilities leave gaping holes. For instance, “over $50 million” is the largest category that can be reported for debts, and Trump listed it in five instances on his most recent filing. Because there is no limit to this category, Trump’s disclosures provide no reassurance that he is not suffering from debilitating debts.
- The financial disclosure form is ambiguous on whether reports on income should reflect the total revenue for businesses in a given year or the net earnings after expenses have been paid. Trump appears to have chosen to report gross revenue, which would offer no insight into his actual earnings. This raises the prospect that Trump’s businesses may be experiencing significant net losses in years in which he reported hundreds of millions of dollars of income.
“Without access to Trump’s taxes, we will never understand what Trump’s true income is, why he has structured his businesses as he has or how he might benefit from policies and decisions he makes as president,” Tanglis said.
Added Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen’s vice president of legislative affairs, “Trump has made a mockery of the public trust by maintaining ownership of his businesses after entering the White House. The information in this report should provide a clarion call to Congress to require him to disclose his taxes and to establish prohibitions on Trump using his office to enrich himself.”
Read the report (PDF).