Randi Kreiss

Doubling down on the Trump brand embargo

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Last week, more than a day late and certainly more than a dollar short, Ivanka Trump announced the closing of her clothing company. She is so not the role model for the average American working woman, and her bottom line began to reflect that fact.

One year ago I wrote about ways to resist the Trumpification of America, and suggested individual embargoes of the Trump brand as a starting point. Now I think we need to redouble our efforts as part of the resistance to an increasingly for-profit administration.

Along with millions of others, I am disgusted by the notion of a president and his family using public service to line their pockets. We are witnessing a reprehensible blending of politics and avarice. When did America become the Trumps’ personal slot machine? Isn’t that what autocrats in small African nations and large Russian empires do?

Ivanka said she was closing the business to spend more time at her job as senior White House adviser to the president, and that may be partly true (and also alarming), but it is also true that her business has suffered setbacks. More and more shoppers just don’t want to support Trump Inc. The obvious comingling of power and profit is unethical and possibly illegal. Let us not forget Kellyanne Conway’s appearance on Fox news when she urged viewers to “buy Ivanka’s stuff.” That is a violation of federal law. And it became just another “so what” in the cascade of immoral, tone-deaf and wrong-minded pronouncements from the White House.

According to a story last week in The Washington Post, Ivanka’s products have lost cachet; some large retailers, including Nordstrom, have stopped selling her products. In addition, the story claimed that online sales at some of the biggest outfits like Amazon, Zappos and Bloomingdales have dropped precipitously — more than 50 percent in some cases.

We the people aren’t stupid . . . although many of us are increasingly distracted by the shiny objects Trump & Co. wave in our faces. People notice the dissonance between leaders ballyhooing “America first” while manufacturing most of their business merchandise overseas.

Ivanka’s company has dragged its high heels in creating real oversight of its manufacturing operations in China and Indonesia. Ivanka attempted to put some distance between herself and her company last year when she appointed a corporate chief, Abigail Klem, who promised more rigorous monitoring of working conditions in their foreign factories. But now the business has been shut down.

Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, noted in the Washington Post story that while Ivanka’s business may hibernate, she continues to gather trademarks and contacts abroad for possible future business opportunities. “What better time to get those trademarks than now, when every government around the world wants to play nice with her father?” Painter said.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump keeps his own financial dealings and holdings opaque even though his job demands transparency. He ignores calls for the release of his tax returns, which would allow public scrutiny of any possible conflicts of interest. What is known is that he continues to reap huge rewards from family investments in businesses that do not put America first, that exploit low-wage employees in factories overseas, and that need the president’s “favored business” status to thrive and continue to make money. What awful webs he weaves.

Let us not forget: There are Trump golf courses, Trump hotels, Trump restaurants, Trump real estate developments, Trump water and Trump fragrances. It stinks. The president has never erected a believable wall of privacy between his business interests and his obligations to the nation.

Go to the Trump business website and read about the president’s son and namesake: “Donald J. Trump Jr. is an innovator and leader in today’s young business world. As an Executive Vice President at the Trump organization, Donald Jr. works in tandem with his brother, Eric, to expand the company’s real estate, retail, commercial hotel and golf interests …”

The unfathomable and unanswerable question is, how much of Donald Jr., Eric’s and Ivanka’s business success is facilitated by the existence of the Trump presidency and the willingness of the president to cash in on his office?

For those who ask what we can do, we know the answer: We can vote and encourage others to vote. And we can refuse to buy Trump products. No Ivanka clothes or jewelry, no Trump water, no condos. No amount of Trump fragrance will make any of this smell better.

We can boycott his hotels and his golf courses here and around the world. We can urge our clubs and civic groups and philanthropies to do no harm by avoiding Trump venues. Donald Trump needs to give up his day job, which surely brings him little joy, and go back to his life’s obsession: making himself richer.

Copyright 2018 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.