Wine from the Trump Winery in Charlottesville, VA, was reportedly spotted being sold at Skyland Resort, which is inside Virginia's Shenandoah National Park — and it's raised all sorts of ethical questions.
Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group that opposes Trump's agenda, tells Refinery29 that an anonymous member of the center first noticed it in June. But he says friends who live in the area told him that the wine was still there as recently as October.
The story was first reported in E&E News, a publication focusing on energy and the environment.
Snape says that selling Trump wine may break the NPS' Concession Policy Act, which dictates that what's sold on federal national park land be "appropriate" for public use — and that it's a possible conflict of interest. "What is the separation between President Trump as the commander-in-chief and President Trump as the chief financier of his own empire?"
The Skyland gift shop, which sells food, beverages, and souvenirs, is operated by Delaware North, a global food-service and hospitality company that pays fees to the NPS based on its revenues.
Mark Leach, the manager of the Shenandoah stores for Delaware North, told The Hill that he has decided to stop selling wine from the Trump vineyard, which is owned by the president's son Eric Trump, in order to "stay out of politics."
"We sold it throughout much of 2016 and we did a purchase of the rosé back in May or June, primarily because the distributor we purchase from had some," he told The Hill.
Another spokesperson for Delaware North confirms that the company is no longer offering Trump wine in Shenandoah.
"At Shenandoah National Park, we offer wines from several different Virginia vintners," she says. "Because they are locally produced, we had also offered wines from the Trump Winery and its predecessor, Kluge Estate, prior to September. This was only at Shenandoah, where it is a local product, and not at any other parks. The National Park Service did not request or require us to carry it." Trump bought the Kluge Estate in 2011.
We also called the gift shop to ask whether it still sells Trump wine, and the person who answered the phone said it only currently carries wine from Barboursville Vineyards, and she wasn't aware of a Trump wine delivery coming anytime soon.
The NPS tells Refinery29 that the Trump wine was being sold by Delaware North, not by the park itself, and that the company had been selling this wine "for years."
"The NPS authorizes concessioners to sell categories of retail goods and products like T-shirts, baseball hats, and in this case wine," NPS acting public affairs chief Jeremy Barnum tells us. "However, the NPS does not specify what brands of these products should be sold."
Snape says he filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act on Tuesday, asking the National Park Service for records of wine sales in Shenandoah and other national parks.
Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota who served as the chief ethics lawyer to George W. Bush, says this is an example of the use of public office for private gain, which is in violation of the Office of Government Ethics rules. "[These are the] same rules Kellyanne Conway violated when she shilled for Ivanka clothes on Fox News," he tells Refinery29.
Earlier this year, the OGE asked the White House to investigate Conway, the president's counselor, after she urged viewers to, "Go buy Ivanka's stuff" in a TV interview. The White House did not discipline Conway, although she promised to abide by the ethics standards in the future.
We'll update this story as more information becomes available.