PALM BEACH, Fla. — One of President-elect Donald Trump’s sons will stop directly raising money for his namesake foundation, which has a multimillion-dollar commitment to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, saying he worries the donations could be perceived as buying access to his father.
Eric Trump said Wednesday that it pained him to cease soliciting donations for his organization, which he says has raised more than $15 million for children terminally ill with cancer.
“Fighting childhood cancer is a cause that has been central to my life since I was 21 years old,” Eric Trump told The Associated Press. “It’s an extremely sad day when doing the right thing isn’t the right thing. That said, raising awareness for the cause will be a lifelong mission for me.”
The Trumps have come under scrutiny in recent days for charity ventures that offered access to the incoming first family — including the president-elect.
Eric Trump’s foundation scuttled a plan to raise money for the children’s hospital through an online auction for coffee with his sister Ivanka Trump, who is considering joining the White House in some capacity. And Eric and Donald Trump Jr. backed away from an inauguration event that aimed to raise money for conservation charities.
They were named as directors along with two of their friends in a new Texas-based nonprofit that had considered offering $1 million donors the chance to rub elbows with the new president at a “Camouflage & Cufflinks” ball in Washington the day after Trump’s swearing-in. The nonprofit also proposed allowing some donors to join one or both of the sons on a hunting or fishing trip.
A spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state said Thursday that the nonprofit registration had been amended a day earlier to remove the Trump sons as directors. Their friend Gentry Beach, a Dallas businessman, is now listed as the sole director of what’s called the Opening Day Foundation. In addition, that group has stripped all references to contributors meeting with any of the Trumps, although the sons remain listed as honorary co-chairmen on a revised invitation to the Jan. 21 event.
Ethics counselors for Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush praised the family for making quick adjustments to avoid the appearance of selling access — but warned that the family must set up bright lines between their business and charitable ventures and the government they are about to lead.
Eric Trump, the younger of the president-elect’s two adult sons, has raised enough money over the last decade to fund a new intensive care unit at St. Jude’s, which provides free medical care for children.
The focus on the Eric Trump Foundation comes after Donald Trump relentlessly criticized his Democratic opponent for the White House, Hillary Clinton, for allegedly providing favors to donors to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state. She has denied those allegations.
News of Eric Trump’s decision was first reported Wednesday by The New York Times.
Eric Trump said he will likely wind down the Eric Trump Foundation — which had just one employee — but plans to continue public advocacy against childhood cancer. About $5 million of a $20 million, 10-year commitment to St. Jude’s remains outstanding, money that likely will be raised by donations from patrons at Trump-owned hotels and golf courses.
Don Jr. and Eric Trump, who were among the Republican businessman’s closest campaign advisers and have played an active role in the transition, are planning to remain in New York to run the massive Trump Organization once their father takes office. Critics have demanded the president-elect divest himself from his business. He was to have addressed the future of the company at a press conference last week, but it has been postponed to January.
The future also remains murky for the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a separate charity run by the president-elect that solicited outside gifts and has been criticized for using donations to fund business interests.