Did Trump Sell a US Ambassador Spot for $200,000?
Trump just gave an Ambassadorship to a luxury handbag maker who also happens to be a member of his Mar-a-Lago resort – fueling accusations of nepotism.
President Donald Trump nominated Lana Marks to serve as the U.S. ambassador to South Africa last Thursday. Marks is an executive member of the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump’s exclusive club which costs $200,000 to join. She is also a luxury handbag maker whose handbags cost as much as $400,000. Marks is now the fourth Mar-a-Lago club executive that Trump has tapped for foreign diplomatic missions.
Previously, Trump nominated Robin Bernstein, a founding member of Mar-a-Lago, to serve as ambassador to the Dominican Republic. He has also selected Patrick Park as ambassador to Austria and Brian Burns as ambassador to Ireland. Park turned down the invitation, and Burns declined for health reasons.
Who is Lana Marks?
Marks was born in South Africa and speaks both Afrikaans and Xhosa fluently. She attended the University of Witwatersrand and the Institute of Personnel Management, both in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The White House also says the couture designer is a former member of the Women’s Leadership Board at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as well as the Women’s International Forum, where she reportedly served for more than 10 years.
Marks is most well-known for her high-end line of handbags, made out of rare leathers, called Lana Marks handbags. She has stores in New York, Palm Beach, Beverly Hills and is expanding to China, the Middle East and Singapore. Her bags typically sell in the $15,000 to $20,000 price range but some have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Her bags are also frequently worn by stars on the red carpet,
Lawsuits Plague Lana Marks
But despite being a successful businesswoman, Marks is not without controversy. She has been the target of over a dozen lawsuits, some of which are still playing out.
The “Palm Beach Daily News” reported that she’s battled lawsuits in Aspen, New York, California and South Florida where prosecutors have repeatedly alleged that Marks stiffed her workers, landlords, accountants and attorneys.
Marks is also involved in litigation with her family members in courts in Israel and South Africa over a family trust and care of their 89-year-old mother.
Lawsuits in Palm Beach County, Florida specifically accuse Marks of failing to pay $25,399 in rent for an office space plus three lawsuits accused Marks of failing to pay rent for her store on Worth Avenue. Marks also settled a case out of court in Fort Lauderdale for $13,000 accusing her of failing to pay legal fees.
According to Palm Beach Daily News, Marks has also been sued for failing to pay $117,342 in advertising fees to luxury magazines, $130,540 for not providing sufficient permits to a store to sell her handbags, plus multiple lawsuits for not paying contractors for work performed. The IRS also hit Marks and her husband with a lien of over $360,000 for failing to pay income tax.
Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago Lands of Influence
In addition to the $200,000 cost to join Mar-a-Lago, Marks and her husband hosted their daughter’s wedding at Mar-a-Lago. According to the Chicago Tribune, a “big gala” at Mar-a-Lago can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000. Additionally, after the resort initiation costs, an annual membership at the club is $14,000 a year.
Palm Beach has served as a fertile ground for influence in the Trump administration according to the Palm Beach Daily which reported that three club members are said to be influential advisers on public policy in the Veteran’s Administration: Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor; Ike Perlmutter, the chairman of Marvel Entertainment; and Marc Sherman, an attorney.
Other notables with homes in Palm Beach include current Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (who has been seen at Mar-a-Lago events), U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Duke Buchanan III ambassador to Spain.