An extensive investigation by USA Today uncovered that "dozens" of government influencers — including lobbyists, executives with federal contracts, and trade group officials —have memberships at President Trump's private golf clubs. While it's legal for these individuals to have memberships, the proximity to the president that these memberships provide poses serious ethical questions, USA Today reported:
The review shows that, for the first time in U.S. history, wealthy people with interests before the government have a chance for close and confidential access to the president as a result of payments that enrich him personally. It is a view of the president available to few other Americans.
Among Trump club members are top executives of defense contractors, a lobbyist for the South Korean government, a lawyer helping Saudi Arabia fight claims over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the leader of a pesticide trade group that sought successfully to persuade the Trump administration not to ban an insecticide government scientists linked to health risks. [USA Today]
Aside from paying $100,000 in initiation fees and thousands more in annual dues to Trump's company, the members also have the opportunity to be around when Trump makes his frequent visits to his private golf clubs. USA Today noted that "two-thirds" of these members "played on one of the 58 days the president was there."
The members insisted that they use the clubs solely to play golf, not to talk government business. Still, some members have noted how "surprisingly approachable" Trump is when they've seen him at his golf clubs, talking about everything "from the state of the tee boxes to the course of his administration." "Face time is everything when it comes to Washington," said Walter Shaub, the recently resigned Office of Government Ethics director. "The president bopping around his properties gives them access to him."