US President Donald Trump has looked to re-brand his Mar-a-Lago club as the Winter White House. President Trump is aiming to raise the stature of the Palm Beach resort and create legitimate reasons why he frequently attends the resort. During the initial stages of his term, the President and his staff have been seen at the resort. President Trump’s re-branding effort has received support from the State Department’s foreign outreach program. The State Department’s news site ShareAmerica published a story that appeared to be a press release for the Mar-a-Lago resort. The post was also linked to the website of the US Embassy in the United Kingdom, as well as the Facebook page of the US Embassy in Albania.
The post drew immediate criticism from Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics adviser under then President Barack Obama, as well as California Representative Mark Takano. Both men noted that government funded websites should not promote President Trump’s business venture.
ShareAmerica is operated by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. The website is listed as a platform for sharing images and stories that are thought provoking and will help start dialogue on important issues such as democracy, innovation, education, and freedom of expression. There are a number of unique stories on the website; including the donation of a collection of insects to a university and the global economic impact of pirated music.
The Trump Administration also faced criticism for their press release that promoted a new investment by Exxon Mobil that appeared similar to the one that the oil company released themselves. Exxon was previously ran by the current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who sold off his remaining shares in Exxon while under an ethics agreement with the federal government.
Critics of President Trump note that he continues to flirt with potential conflicts of interest by intertwining his personal interests and the best interests of the United States. In the last few days, ShareAmerica has taken down the press release promoting Mar-a-Lago from the State Department run website to avoid any more controversy.