Thursday 21 September 2017

Ivanka in the business of crude plugs

Inappropriate: Ivanka Trump wore her jewellery in a TV interview then pushed sales of it Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Inappropriate: Ivanka Trump wore her jewellery in a TV interview then pushed sales of it Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Gina London

Last week - as American headlines blared about Congressional hearings over Donald Trump's baseless wire-tapping allegations, his former campaign manager's multimillion-dollar Russian contract and Republicans' failed healthcare package - Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka prepared to move into her new office in the White House.

The press did cover this story to a degree, of course. Reports stated Ivanka is officially in an "unofficial" position without a title or job description and isn't taking a salary. Despite the vague disclaimer, the First Daughter will get the West Wing office, a government-issued phone and security clearance that allows her to see classified information. How precarious is that?

"By putting his family members in critical, yet largely undefined, positions as special advisers to the president, President Trump has set a precedent for unlimited scandal, self-enrichment and corruption in the White House," Bonnie Erbe told me.

Bonnie is the host of the To The Contrary TV show by the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and she responded to my questions last Friday night after she wrapped up a full day of show production.

"Ivanka, for example," she explained, "still has her clothing and jewellery lines. As an active business owner, she is creating a myriad of conflicts-of-interest situations.

"She was already chastised for wearing her jewellery in a 60 Minutes TV interview, then sending out online sales material touting her wearing the bracelet on TV and pushing sales of it."

PBS makes it clear on its website that Bonnie, who created To The Contrary more than two decades ago, "is non-partisan and toes no party line". She has won more than 20 journalistic awards and one of her main interests, as reflected in her programme, is women's issues.

Bonnie, who fondly recalled visiting Ireland many years ago to see the craggy cliffs of the "Dingle Peninsula and the beehive huts built by monks centuries ago", has covered her share of presidential administrations. But, when it comes to women, nothing compares to The Donald.

"President Trump seems to have a need to have either his wife or his daughter inappropriately sit next to him in high-level government meetings," she said.

"After the election, but before his inauguration, he went up to Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional leaders for the first time as President-elect. Melania was walking next to him in every shot. Yet she seemingly had no purpose there except as some sort of prop. Ivanka fills the same role when Melania is unavailable.

"There is more potential now for self-enrichment and thus scandal when Ivanka sits in on these meetings, as she is still running a multimillion-dollar business."

How appropriate, then, is it that Ivanka's upcoming book, due out in May, titled Women Who Work is also subtitled, 'Rewriting the Rules for Success'? The rules that may apply to others don't appear to apply to the Trumps.

"Her book," Bonnie predicted, "will be one of the few things she can promote while acting as her father's adviser without getting into too many conflicts of interest. It's much safer for her to sell her book while acting as her father's adviser than it is for her to sell boots or dresses or jewellery. Plenty of White House advisers have done the same thing, although they usually have the grace to write their books after they leave office.

"She will undoubtedly try to sell herself, and therefore her father, as being woman-friendly and working to empower women. Nothing can be farther from the truth when it comes to her father. Look at his healthcare proposal that just failed. He was going to cut maternity benefits for women in their health insurance. To most American women and men that seems just crazy.

"Funding for Planned Parenthood, which serves millions of poor women each year with screenings for breast or uterine cancer, is being zeroed out in his budget.

"He would save roughly $450m in Medicaid reimbursements. That is a pittance compared to the $53bn he needs to cut from federal programmes in order to boost defence spending by 10pc.

"He will most likely fail in his effort to completely cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, just as he failed to produce healthcare reform."

With so many fast-moving juggling balls in Trump's circus of potential scandals, is Trump succeeding in wearing us out? A man I shared the Today with Maura and Daithi green room with recently said he had stopped reading about Trump altogether. "I'm exhausted," he told me.

However, the nearly 100 female executives who attended the Ernst & Young Women in Business dinner last Tuesday at Fallon & Byrne, where I spoke about the so-called "Trump effect", expressed none of the Today with Maura and Daithi guest's burnout.

"We're not fatigued," one of the business leaders announced during the Q&A section of the evening, "We're more motivated than ever."

That, from some other women who work.

Sunday Independent

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