Organizers of the function did not respond to questions about whether it would go forward without them. “The group is committed to and supportive of conservation causes,” spokesman Mark Brinkerhoff said. “We are excited to create positive change.”
The Trump brothers' decision to bow out came after revelations that they were listed in Texas corporate filings as directors of a newly formed nonprofit, the Opening Day Foundation, that was putting on the function. But transition officials said the brothers' names had been used without permission and sought to separate the family from the event.
On Tuesday, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the family had not approved an early draft of the invitation that offered contributors who gave at least $500,000 a private reception with the new president and a hunting or fishing expedition with one of his sons. She said Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump were “not involved in any capacity” with the event.
But those involved in the planning said the brothers took part in discussions about the fundraiser. Dallas private equity investor Tom Hicks Jr., a longtime friend of the Trump brothers, told The Washington Post that Donald Trump Jr. had spearheaded the plans with another mutual friend, hedge fund manager Gentry Beach. The men, all avid hunters, have been friends for 15 years. Beach is the godfather to one of Donald Trump Jr.'s children, according to the Dallas Morning News.
By Wednesday, there were efforts to distance the Trump brothers from the event. The official Opening Day website, which prominently featured their names, was taken down after briefly going live Tuesday. And the Eventbrite ticket page that listed Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump as “organizer” of Opening Day on Tuesday was changed.
A spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state said Wednesday that new paperwork had been filed, removing Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump as officers of the Opening Day Foundation.
Another challenge facing Opening Day: It is still unclear where the money from donors would go. The Jan. 21 event was supposed to be the kickoff fundraiser for the Opening Day Foundation, which is in the process of seeking recognition by the Internal Revenue Service to operate as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. In the meantime, Brinkerhoff said, it was operating as a project of the Montana-based Boone and Crockett Club Foundation.
But Greg Duncan, a spokesman for the club — which sponsors conservation-education programs, advocates for wilderness conservation and maintains a database of North American records for big-game hunting — reiterated Wednesday that the group had not decided whether to take part in the fundraiser.
Wealthy donors will still have exclusive opportunities to mingle with the new president and his family. The 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee is offering contributors who give $1 million and more to help put on the inauguration festivities a slew of perks, including eight tickets to a “candlelight dinner” that will feature “special appearances” by Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, along with their respective spouses, Melania and Karen.