It’s been a mixed bag this week for Eastman Kodak, the storied camera giant that won a now-imperiled $765 million federal coronavirus drug manufacturing deal last month. An independent review commissioned by the company found that executives who cashed out by exercising stock options the day before the deal was announced likely acted legally. But the top watchdog for the agency behind the huge government loan also announced that it’s investigating the deal.
Since the late July announcement of a deal for Kodak to manufacture ingredients for COVID-19 drugs, much attention has been paid to the company’s substantial efforts to ingratiate itself with the Trump administration. And, it turned out, Kodak did dramatically ramp up its lobbying activities in the months prior, dropping an unprecedented $870,000 on its D.C. influence operation in the second quarter of the year. But the company had another unique and less well-known political asset: a longstanding business relationship with Donald Trump himself.
Throughout Trump’s career in reality television, Kodak paid for coveted—and expensive—promotional spots on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, securing the company on-air endorsements and product-placement deals that provided incalculable value for the struggling firm. Trump himself plugged the company on the air, and even used Kodak to illustrate business-marketing challenges in materials published by his now-shuttered Trump University.