Eagle Sign and Design, a metalworking and sign company, received an order to manufacture dozens of round, 12-inch replicas of the presidential seal to be placed next to the tee boxes at Trump golf course holes. Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business.
In recent weeks, the Trump Organization has ordered the manufacture of new tee markers for golf courses that are emblazoned with the seal of the president of the United States. Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business. Misuse can be a crime, ProPublica reported.
Past administrations have policed usage vigilantly. In 2005 the Bush administration ordered the satirical news website The Onion to remove a replica of the seal. Grant M. Dixton, associate White House counsel, wrote in a letter to The Onion that the seal “is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement,” ProPublica reported.
Eagle Sign and Design, a metalworking and sign company with offices in New Albany, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky, said it had received an order to manufacture dozens of round, 12-inch replicas of the presidential seal to be placed next to the tee boxes at Trump golf course holes, ProPublica reported.
“We made the design, and the client confirmed the design,” said Joseph E. Bates, who owns Eagle Sign, declining to say who the client was.
An order form for the tee markers reviewed by ProPublica and WNYC says the customer was “Trump International.” The Facebook page for Eagle Sign and Design shows a photo of the markers in an album with the caption “Trump International Golf Course,” ProPublica reported.
It is unclear how many Trump International golf courses will feature the markers. The Trump Organization owns four courses with the “International” name in the U.S. and abroad. Eagle Sign makes a wide array of tee markers out of bronze and aluminum, and has made other signs for Trump’s courses, according to its website. At some of Trump’s golf courses, tee markers have sported the Trump family crest, which he took from the family that originally owned Mar-a-Lago without permission and then altered by adding his own name, ProPublica reported.
Ethics experts have long been on the lookout for signs that the Trump Organization would exploit the office of the presidency for commercial gain. Several said that using the presidential seal on the company’s golf courses would fall into this category. A law governs the manufacture or use of the seal, its likeness, “or any facsimile thereof” for anything other than official U.S. government business. It can be a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in prison, ProPublica reported.
The “law is an expression of the idea that the government and government authority should not be used for private purpose,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University specializing in government and legal ethics said. “It would be a misuse of government authority.”
The Department of Justice declined to comment on whether it was aware the seal had been used by entities outside the government. The White House and the Trump Organization did not respond to ProPublica’s request for comment.
Versions of the seal have occasionally been put to personal use by past presidents. George W. Bush and Barack Obama had custom sets of golf balls made with the seal. Ronald and Nancy Reagan had a set of presidential china bearing the seal, and there have even been M&M’s and jelly beans that featured the seal, ProPublica reported.
In this case, the difference is that a private company is using the seal, said Richard Painter, vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government accountability group. Painter also served as an associate White House counsel during the George W. Bush administration, ProPublica reported.
“If we had heard of a private company using it for commercial purposes, we would have sent them a nasty letter,” he said.