A Florida charity for children announced Tuesday that it was canceling plans to hold a fundraiser luncheon at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club next winter — adding to an exodus of its high-paying charity clients in the days after his comments about violent protests in Charlottesville.
“Due to the political turbulence associated with this choice of venue it would be a disservice to our supporters and our children to hold our event at Mar-a-Lago,” said Sharon Alexander, the group’s chief executive, in the statement. “We prefer the conversations to be centered off the venue and instead focused on how we can help kids with special needs excel in their communities.”
The charity said it would cancel the event outright — unlike other charities, which said they hoped to move their events from Mar-a-Lago to other venues. Alexander said that the group had not yet put down a deposit at Mar-a-Lago.
She said that the group anticipated that its event would have raised $160,000. “At this time, we are exploring options to address this $160,000 shortfall or we will need to cut funding support from several critical programs and services,” Alexander said.
Another group, Gateway for Cancer Research, said late Tuesday it had decided to withdraw from Mar-a-Lago as a venue for its St. Patrick’s Day event next March. The non-profit organization said it “has appreciated the generous support and commitment of the Palm Beach community to its mission.”
In all, 17 charities have now canceled events at Mar-a-Lago since Aug. 15, when President Trump said there were “fine people” among those who came to Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. That crowd also included neo-Nazis and white supremacists, including one man now charged with murder for running down counterprotesters with his car.
These departures have had a serious impact on a major line of business for the president’s club: hosting the ritzy galas and luncheons that are the highlights of Palm Beach’s winter social “season.” The events can bring in significant amounts of revenue: Charities hosting large galas can pay Trump’s club between $125,000 and $275,000 for a single night’s revelry. Even lunchtime events can cost charities between $25,000 and $85,000. Unicorn Children’s Foundation did not immediately respond to a question about how much its luncheon was slated to cost.
The galas have also provided the president with a significant role in the social life of Palm Beach: On big gala nights, the island’s uber-elite must come to him, to admire a club that doubles as Trump’s second home. Even as president, Trump has continued to relish this role as Palm Beach’s host in chief: He has returned to Mar-a-Lago repeatedly this year, calling it the “Winter White House,” and dropped in to glad-hand and speak at several galas.
Even before Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, Mar-a-Lago seemed headed for a down year. The club was slated to host 16 galas and at least nine other events, including luncheons and a reception. Even before last week, some longtime clients had moved to other venues — with some citing hassles involved in getting their partygoers through the president’s security bubble.
Now, 12 of the galas and five of the other events have been canceled. Other departures may be coming: One charity that had planned a luncheon at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach Habilitation Center, said it is holding an emergency board meeting Wednesday to reconsider that decision.
The Trump Organization has not responded to questions about what these departures have meant for Mar-a-Lago’s bottom line. In recent years, the club has reported annual profits between $3 million and $8.6 million, according to documents filed in a Florida lawsuit. After Trump’s election, the club also doubled the initiation fee for new members, from $100,000 to $200,000.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Unicorn Children’s Foundation planned to move its event from Mar-a-Lago to another venue. The event is being canceled outright.
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