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4/6/17

Questionable Ethics: 'Winter White House' a Winning Brand for Trump's Business - By J. Bykowicz and T. Spence

This week, President Donald Trump writes his members-only oceanfront property deeper into American history books by meeting there with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping _ a move that could financially benefit Trump.

No doubt Florida's oceanfront Mar-a-Lago resort is an impressive site for a summit between the presidents of the U.S. and China. And it's a pretty nice business advertisement, too, for the owner of the luxurious, members-only private property.

That would be Donald J. Trump.

Even before this week's summit, President Trump and his aides had begun referring to Mar-a-Lago as the "Winter White House," a marketing coup for a man who has made millions selling his personal brand. Now the president is writing his property deeper into American history books by meeting there with China's Xi Jinping.

The two-day summit, partly to discuss sensitive trade issues, follows five previous weekend trips that Trump has made to Mar-a-Lago in the 12 weeks he has been president. On his fourth weekend in office, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined him there, and the two heads of state huddled on the restaurant's patio before making headlines with a televised joint response to a North Korean missile test.

VIP visits to presidential homes are a tradition dating to shortly before World War II, when Franklin D. Roosevelt began inviting dignitaries to his Hyde Park estate north of New York City, according to the U.S. State Department's historical website. More recently, George H.W. Bush brought leaders to the family's Kennebunkport, Maine, compound, and his son George W. Bush invited them to his Crawford, Texas, ranch. President Barack Obama hosted Xi at Sunnylands, an estate in the California desert formerly owned by late philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg.

But Mar-a-Lago isn't just a vacation home for Trump. It's a for-profit part of his global real estate empire. That makes "Winter White House" more than a charming phrase; it's good for business.

Breaking with presidential precedent, Trump held onto ownership of his businesses when he took office, meaning he makes money when his properties do well. The resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000 after he was elected. And "Winter White House" is working its way into marketing materials. When Trump is in town, Mar-a-Lago's hotel rooms and restaurant reservations fill up fast.

Read more: "Winter White House' a Winning Brand for Trump's Business | Washington, DC News | US News

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