A company called Phantom Fireworks had been lobbying the Trump administration to drop a plan to institute new Chinese tariffs that would have slapped 25 percent tariffs on imported fireworks.
Donald Trump would later decide to scrap the plan to impose the tariffs — on the same day Phantom Fireworks donated $750,000 worth of sparklers and bottle rockets for Trump’s Fourth of July celebration. The coincidence has not been lost on Trump’s critics.
As ABC News reported, Phantom Fireworks is the nation’s largest retailer of consumer-friendly fireworks, and was quite active in pushing the Trump administration away from new Chinese tariffs. Some of the company’s top leadership are on the board for the American Pyrotechnics Association, which wrote an open letter calling for the Trump administration to remove tariffs on Chinese goods that would have included a hike on fireworks.
The company’s CEO, Bruce Zoldan, even met directly with Trump in the Oval Office in May, but he told ABC News that they did not discuss fireworks. Phantom Fireworks later announced its $750,000 donation of fireworks for Trump’s Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C.
The donation has come under fire from some watchdog groups.
“This is another example of how private companies attempt use their money to influence the government by stroking the president’s ego,” Jordan Libowitz with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told ABC News.
Phantom Fireworks said that the fireworks donation had already been planned for months and that there was no political motivation behind the gift.
Phantom Fireworks CEO Bruce Zoldan both donated $750,000 dollars worth of fireworks to Trump’s Fourth of July celebration and successfully lobbied the president to not implement tariffs that could negatively impact his business, CREW requested documents https://t.co/8wlwPSsWqR
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) July 4, 2019
Donald Trump has come under fire for changes he instituted to the traditional Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C. Trump announced a number of changes, including a parade of military vehicles and a speech he plans to deliver from the Lincoln Memorial. The event includes a private area for friends and family, with the Republican National Committee reportedly in charge of ticketing. Critics have said the changes turn the traditionally apolitical celebration of Independence Day into something of a campaign rally for Donald Trump.
The controversy has also made its way to Phantom Fireworks. Not long after Donald Trump personally thanked the company in a tweet, someone phoned in a bomb threat to the company’s Youngstown, Ohio, headquarters. As Business Journal Daily reported, the phone call claimed that there was a bomb in the building and led to 60 people being evacuated as police cleared the building to make sure there were no explosives.