The Short Version: Conflicts of Interest

The Short Version: Conflicts of Interest

The point of it all is to break down the headlines, the week’s most controversial issues, determine why a particular issue is important to you, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story.

By reading Cleo Abram’s The Short Version, you join a vibrant group of people with two simple beliefs: 1) Every important issue can and should be discussed in a way we all can understand; 2) Understanding both sides makes us more thoughtful and our views more informed.

In some of the most recent iterations of The Short Version, Cleo Abram explored the viability of the Electoral College, because, well, this is the second election of the past five in which the person with the most votes is not going to the White House. She opeed the door on torture. Do we gain by inflicting pain? What constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment. (Check out the 8th amendment to our constitution.) This week, Cleo explores what might happen when president-elect Trump’s interests are not the same as ours.

Note: If you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her past blogs will appear.


Cleo Constantine Abrams of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

Cleo Constantine Abram of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

What’s happening?

President-elect Trump is set to become the richest president in U.S. history. More unusual, his wealth derives from privately held companies largely run by himself and his children. Most unprecedented, we do not know the extent of his business interests because he is the first presidential candidate to be elected without releasing any tax returns.

The president-elect’s wealth, company structure, and secrecy could create problems once he assumes the presidency on January 20th. These issues could range from small-scale conflicts of interest to widespread corruption to outright violations of the Constitution.

Why is it important?

There are many federal laws that prevent executive branch officials from profiting from their positions. Typically, they cannot invest in areas their work affects. These laws do not apply to the president because, the reasoning goes, his work affects all areas.

The Constitution’s rules on the subject, however, do apply to the president. Under Article 1, Section 9, no official is allowed to any kind of “emolument” from any foreign state. An emolument is a “compensation for labor or services“—which includes business exchanges with foreign governments and companies backed by foreign governments.

Since Lyndon Johnson, most presidents have avoided these conflicts (and controversy) by selling their investments and putting their money in a “blind trust.” For a trust to be “blind,” the person who owns the investments cannot know what the trust contains and the person who oversees the trust cannot have a financial stake in the investments themselves.

President-elect Trump has made some statements regarding these issues. He says he will leave his two sons in charge of his businesses.  He says he will step back—but will retain his ownership stake in the company—to focus on governance with his daughter. By definition, this is not a blind trust because of the president-elect’s prior knowledge of the investments and his children’s financial interests.

Debate it!

Should Trump put his assets in a blind trust before becoming president?

 Why “The Short Version” on TIO:

Nine+ ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)

And now, this new weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance. (Though we won’t go political, or rather we won’t show bias.)

“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist.

Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.

More about Cleo Constantine Abram:

Cleo Abram 2

Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.

Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.

Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.

She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.

Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.

Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.

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