When Ivanka Trump completed her soon-to-be-released book, her life looked much different than it does right now. For one, her father hadn't yet won the election that made him the current President of the United States, and she certainly hadn't yet made the switch from being a private businesswoman to a White House employee. Trump's newest book, Women Who Work, will hit stores Tuesday, but now the unpaid special assistant to the president will have to take steps to avoid ethical conflicts surrounding the launch. One such step? She won't actually be profiting from the book's release. Which charity is Ivanka Trump donating her book proceeds to? According to The New York Times, Trump will donate the proceeds to the Urban League and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, because, as she explained, both organizations have “made it a priority to promote entrepreneurship and educational opportunities for women and girls in underserved communities.”
On April 20, Trump released a statement noting that she had created the Ivanka M. Trump Charitable Fund to house the portion of her advance she hadn't yet received from her publisher, and that in "the first wave of giving," each group would get a grant of $100,000. With the money, Trump said the National Urban League would be launching "a new Women’s Initiative as part of its signature Entrepreneurship Center Program," that would "focus on giving women the mentorship and tools they need to start and grow successful businesses and achieve economic self-sufficiency." As for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America? The organization will be putting the grant towards its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, designed to help "produce a generation of STEM-ready youth who are equipped to fill the jobs of the future, [and] become our next generation of innovators."
During her father's campaign, Ivanka Trump positioned herself as someone who would help to champion causes important to women, and even helped craft the president's child care tax plan, according to MONEY. Though written well before her father took office, Women Who Work seems similarly designed to assist women, at least in theory: Trump described the book as one that meant to "supply advice and tips on leadership, entrepreneurship, juggling work and family," according to The New York Times, as well as information on “building cultures where multidimensional women can thrive — now and in the future.”
The inspiration behind the project? Trump said that “like many other professional women," she has had to learn to balance the needs of having a young family — Trump and her husband, Trump aide Jared Kushner, have three children — with the needs of her various businesses. The book's publisher, Portfolio, described the book as reflecting Trump's "continuing commitment to inspire and empower women to define success on their own terms and to create the lives they want to live," according to USA Today, and that certainly sounds admirable. But whether you consider Trump to truly be an advocate for the working woman, it seems like a bit of a stretch to insinuate that her donation is a result of simply wanting to help further women and girls.
In her statement regarding the book and her charitable fund, Trump explained that she considered the project to be separate from her current government work, and explained that it is "a personal project" that she wrote "at a different time in [her] life, from the perspective of an executive and an entrepreneur." She wrote that "out of an abundance of caution," she would not be embarking on a promotional tour for the book, or doing media interviews to promote it, but the fact that she is a White House employee, and is therefore governed by strict ethics laws, should mean that, well, not doing any of that should be a given.
According to CNN, as an employee of the White House, Trump will have to file a Form 278 financial disclosure with the Office of Government Ethics, and according to CNBC, she will also be prohibited from being involved in any "particular matter that will have a direct effect on a financial interest, if there is a close causal link between any decision or action to be taken in the matter and any expected effect of the matter on the financial interest." In other words, like making money from your book deal.
According to Trump's statement announcing her charitable fund, the LLC Trump created to oversee the grants will contribute "a minimum $425,000" to the charity, which is meant to cover the amount of Trump's advance she hasn't yet been paid, minus expenses. She will also contribute any future royalties she receives from the book from May 1, 2017 to May 1, 2022 to the fund, because so long as she is still a White House employee, she can't actually keep that money. That's important to know, not because it means that Trump is kind of philanthropic, but because doing so means she's abiding by the rules.
Trump faced criticism earlier this year, when it was first announced in March that she would be joining her father's administration in an unpaid, unofficial role. At the time, Trump's attorney and ethics adviser Jamie Gorelick, said that the president's daughter would be given a West Wing office, government-issued communications devices and security clearance to access classified information, according to The New York Post, and that she would follow the ethics rules that apply to government employees. But according to NPR, without being an official employee, complying with those ethics rules would basically have been voluntary. Outcry over that decision ultimately led Trump to formally become an employee, meaning that she is now legally bound by rules governing conflicts-of-interest, receiving gifts, and earning income from outside sources — which is just as it should be.
It's great, of course, that the outcome of Trump's book launch will be that the Urban League and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America will both be better able to provide valuable programming that assists women and children across the country. But by donating the money, Trump is just following the rules. If she is serious about truly being a champion for women, it seems that the best way she can actually do that is by using her White House role to actually bring about positive change.