Title of Nobility

Most conflict of interests policies seek to avoid two things: (1) actual conflicts and (2) situations that give even the appearance of a conflict.

The Title of Nobility Clause of the US Constitution (often referred to as the Emoluments Clause) is not as specific. Essentially, it simply states that a person holding office, like the President, should not accept anything of value from a foreign official without permission from Congress.

There is nothing in this clause addressing the appearance of impropriety. Nevertheless, early Presidents understood the importance of appearances and frequently gave away to the Department of State gifts that they received from foreign officials, rather than ask permission to keep the gifts for themselves.

Today, the current President is considering hosting the G7 meeting (a multi-million dollar affair) at a property he owns. Several people are trying to determine if this would constitute a breach of the Emoluments Clause. They are focusing on the letter of the law rather than on its spirit. Meanwhile, a 12-year old could tell you that it doesn’t look right.

Why not simply hold the G7 elsewhere?

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