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By Eoin Higgins
A national hunting group is under fire from animal rights groups for auctioning off the opportunity to spend a week in close quarters with Donald Trump Jr. in Alaska for a luxury "dream hunt" of Sitka black-tailed deer.
So much for separating business and politics. A Texas nonprofit co-chaired by notorious hunting enthusiasts Donald Jr. and Eric Trump will be hosting a wildlife-themed event to celebrate their father's incoming presidency. Donors who drop between $500,000 to $1 million will be entered for a chance to win multi-day hunting and/or fishing trips with the Trumps—all in the name of "conservation."
TMZ posted a copy of the invitation of the "Opening Day 2017" fundraiser with the dress code "Camouflage and Cufflinks." It will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC on Jan. 21, a day after Donald Trump's presidential inauguration.
According to the invitation, donors who donate $1 million for the "Bald Eagle" package will have a chance to win a private reception and photo opportunity with the President-elect, as well as a multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion with Donald Trump. Jr. and/or Eric Trump, among other glitzy prizes. For $500,000, the "Grizzly bear" package offers a scaled down version of the hunting trip.
The event will "celebrate the great American tradition of outdoor sporting, shooting, fishing and conservation," the brochure states.
Walter Kinzie, executive producer and CEO of Encore Live, confirmed the event to POLITICO.
"This celebration, independent from official inaugural events sponsored by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, is in support of conservation organizations all over our beautiful country. All net proceeds from this private event will be donated to support conservation efforts," Kinzie said.
Trump's sons are known hunting aficionados, and have been criticized by animal rights' groups for posing in photos with their exotic and endangered big game catches such as elephants and leopards.
"A few years ago, Donald Trump said that he was 'not a believer in hunting' and was 'surprised' that his sons liked it," she stated. "He spoke out against fishing, too, and also helped PETA by getting the 'diving mule' off the Atlantic City pier. So even though his sons are big-game harassers and killers, we know that he can love them without approving of their poor choice of a pastime, and we hope he won't attend this hideous celebration of animal slaughterers."
There are other ethical questions the event raises. As Salon's Gary Legum argued, "Does anyone think a person who will put up $1 million to spend a few days traipsing through the wilderness with the Trump brothers and their Secret Service retinue is doing so without hoping for a return on their investment?"
"If you are interested in land conservation and have a million dollars to throw around, you can donate it directly to a particular charity that advocates for conservation," Legum added. "You certainly do not need the ear of two people who are supposedly going to stay away from any dealings that reek of favorable government treatment, and cannot 'do new deals' for the corporation they ostensibly run."
Not only that, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the nonprofit hosting the "Opening Day 2017" event was only created on Dec. 14. As the organization explained, "unlike political committees, such nonprofits aren't required by law to reveal their donors, allowing sponsors to write seven-figure checks for access to the president while staying anonymous, if they choose."
"This is Donald Trump and the Trump family using a brand new organization to raise $1 million contributions for a vague goal of giving money to conservation charities, which seems a way of basically just selling influence and selling the ability to meet with the president," Noble continued.
Donald Trump has been repeatedly criticized for involving his family with his forthcoming administration, even though Eric and Donald Jr. are supposedly staying away from politics as they take over the Trump Organization.
However, Trump's children have been sitting in on high profile meetings and reportedly influencing cabinet picks, notably the recent selection of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to lead the Interior Department.
In 2015 the League of Conservation Voters gave Zinke a 3 percent score for his environmental voting record. And, in 2016 the National Parks Action Fund, a group affiliated with the National Parks Conservation Association, gave Zinke an F for his voting record on key bills affecting national parks.
During Zinke's first term as a Congressman he voted to:
- Weaken controls on air and water pollution in national parks
- Lift the federal ban on crude oil exports
- Undermine protections for endangered species
- De-fund efforts to clean up Chesapeake Bay
- Weaken the Antiquities Act by limiting the president's ability to designate new national monuments