Politics & Government

Does Lindsey Graham’s tweet about Trump’s golf course cause an ethics problem?


Lindsey Graham had a good time golfing Sunday with President Donald Trump. But ethics watchdogs say the Seneca Republican should have kept plugs for the president’s properties out of his tweets.

South Carolina’s senior senator spent the day at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., getting some legislative work done with the president while they hit the links.

A White House spokesman said Trump and Graham spent the day discussing the tax bill and upcoming budget talks after they teed off.

Graham expressed his appreciation for the trip on Twitter, writing that “Trump International Golf Club is a spectacular golf course. Great day of fun playing with @POTUS @realDonaldTrump.”

That tweet was enough to set off Walter Shaub. The former head of the federal Office of Government Ethics thought Graham was promoting the president’s private business, and replied: “It's OK that you had fun golfing, but the presidency's not supposed to be for profit.”

Then Shaub slipped into pig Latin, saying “so ... ix-nay on the pectactular-say, kay-oay?”

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also criticized Graham’s tweet. “If you're not worried about the profiteering of the presidency, you aren't paying attention,” the group tweeted.

The Washington-based watch dog has gone after S.C. politicians before. CREW filed a complaint in June with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel about U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s Twitter activity.

At the time, the former S.C. governor re-tweeted Trump’s endorsement of Ralph Norman in a special congressional election in South Carolina’s 5th District. The tweet led the counsel’s office to conclude Haley had violated the law prohibiting federal employees from endorsing candidates for office.

Government lawyers “decided not to pursue disciplinary action” after Haley deleted the tweet.

Trump’s business interests have entangled other public officials too.

In February, Shaub’s former ethcis office criticized presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway after she endorsed first daughter Ivanka Trump’s product line during a Fox New interview.

“I’m going to give a free commercial here,” Conway said. “Go buy it today, everybody.”

Shaub, then still heading the Office of Government Ethics, wrote Conway’s comments were a “clear violation” of federal standards of conduct.

But Graham, unlike Conway and Haley, is an elected senator, so it’s unclear if he had violated any clear guidelines in talking up Trump’s golf course.