by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
Every year, my university requires me to file a conflict-of-interest (COI) statement. I had to ask the COI committee for permission in order to use the ethics textbook that I edited for my classes (since I do not receive any residuals on it, there’s no conflict, but had I received money for each sale, I would have). When I give a talk to a national professional group I have to list honorariums for talks and consulting. I even have to report if my spouse has any positions, grants, or funding from a company that could potentially compromise my objectivity. If I had children, the rule would also apply to their investments and connections. The goal is transparency—in the absence of avoidance, that such conflicts are acknowledged and broadcast. Such rules also apply to most elected officials at all levels. However, the election of Trump has raised the question of avoiding and acknowledging conflicts of interest to a new height.
Consider that in a 60 Minute interview on Sunday, Ivanka Trump wore a bracelet. After the broadcast, her marketing group sent out a message that the bracelet was part of her personal jewelry line and could be purchased for $10,800. If you liked the dress she wore at the RNC convention this summer, then you are out of luck. The dress was part of her line of clothing and is sold out at Macys and Nordstroms. Her national stage has turned into free advertising.
Donald Trump has said that he will turn over his business interests to his children.