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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Trump sons will not attend high-dollar fundraiser that raised questions about access-peddling

Donald Trump’s sons Eric, right, and Donald Jr. wait for the third debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third presidential at UNLV in Las Vegas on Oct. 19. (David Goldman / Associated Press)
By Matea Gold and David A. Fahrenthold Washington Post

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump will not attend a high-priced fundraiser in Washington on their father’s first full day in office amid questions about whether the “camouflage & cufflinks”-themed event was peddling access to the new president and his family.

President-elect Donald Trump’s sons were touted as “honorary co-chairmen” of the “Opening Day 45” event, which was organized by two of their close friends and scheduled to be held the evening of Jan. 21. But a Trump transition official confirmed Wednesday that Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump will not make an appearance at the fundraiser after all.

Organizers of the function did not immediately respond to questions about whether it would go forward without them.

Their decision to bow out came after revelations that the brothers were listed in Texas corporate filings as directors of a newly formed nonprofit, the Opening Day Foundation, that was putting on the function. But transition officials said their names had been used without their permission and sought to separate the family from the event.

On Tuesday, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the family had not approved an early draft of the invitation that offered contributors who gave at least $500,000 a private reception with the new president and a hunting or fishing expedition with one of his sons. She said Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump were “not involved in any capacity” with the event.

But those involved in the planning said the brothers took part in discussions about the fundraiser. Dallas private equity investor Tom Hicks Jr., a longtime friend of the Trump brothers, told the Washington Post that Donald Trump Jr. had spearheaded the plans with another mutual friend, hedge fund manager Gentry Beach. The men, all avid hunters, have been friends for 15 years. Beach is the godfather to one of Donald Trump Jr.’s children, according to the Dallas Morning News.

By Wednesday, there were efforts to distance the Trump brothers from the event. The official Opening Day website, which prominently featured their names, was taken down after briefly going live Tuesday. And the Eventbrite ticket page that listed Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump as “organizer” of Opening Day on Tuesday was changed.

Another challenge facing Opening Day: it is still unclear where the money from donors would go. The Jan. 21 event was supposed to be the kickoff fundraiser for the Opening Day Foundation, which is in the process of seeking recognition by the Internal Revenue Service to operate as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. In the meantime, spokesman Mark Brinkerhoff said it was operating as a project of the Montana-based Boone and Crockett Club Foundation.

But Greg Duncan, a spokesman for the club – which sponsors conservation-education programs, advocates for wilderness conservation and maintains a database of North American records for big-game hunting – reiterated Wednesday that the group had not decided whether to take part in the fundraiser.

Wealthy donors will still have exclusive opportunities to mingle with the new president and his family. The 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee is offering contributors who give $1 million and more to help put on the inauguration festivities a slew of special perks, including eight tickets to a “candlelight dinner” that will feature “special appearances” by Trump, his wife, Melania, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife, Karen.