Donald Trump’s family foundation, the Trump Foundation, has been receiving and donating money under ethically and legally questionable terms since 2012.
The Trump Foundation was founded by Mr. Trump in 1988 with the proceeds from one of his books, but he has not contributed any of his own money since 2008. He also only spends 30 minutes per week working on the goals of the foundation according official IRS documents. Since the foundation relies on donations from others, Trump is essentially taking credit for giving other people’s money.
Here’s an example of how it works: The Trump Foundation made a donation of $150,000 to the Palm Beach Police Foundation, but the money originally came from a New Jersey charity that had donated to the foundation earlier that year. There’s more: the Palm Beach Police Foundation was also charged $500,000 over two years for renting out the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort for its annual gala. So, Trump actually made money off of his “charitable” relationship with the Palm Beach Police Foundation.
Is the foundation giving for charity, or for Trump’s own political gain?
The Trump Foundation has given to charities like the New York Presbyterian Hospital, the Police Athletic League, and even the Clinton Foundation. But some recipients aren’t even charities, they’re other businesses, and even once tennis superstar Serena Williams got money from the foundation.
In addition to the legitimate charitable organizations, and the grey area payments, the foundation has also been giving a lot of money, legally, to several conservative political groups and aligned charities since 2012. Trump has been building his credibility among conservatives this way.
- Franklin Graham, who defended Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, runs two charities which received money from the Trump Foundation, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ($100,000) and the Samaritan’s Purse ($35,000).
- A charity charged with taking care of the New Jersey governor’s mansion that has ties to Chris Christie, the Drumthwacket Foundation, received $40,000.
- He sponsored Senator Rand Paul’s trip to Guatemala to help give eye surgery to impoverished people there.
- Also, he has given money to Justice for All, the Family Leader Foundation, and the American Conservative Union, the latter of which likely allowed him to get better speaking slots at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an important spot for a possible presidential candidate.
Comedians, and even President Obama, have made comments about the more silly and legally questionable expenses by the Trump Foundation, like the $20,000 spent on a 6-foot-tall portrait of Donald Trump which ended up at one of his golf resorts, and $12,000 spent on an autographed Tim Tebow helmet which has disappeared.
Trump Foundation’s Behavior
The majority of reporting on the foundation has been done by David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, and this reporting has gone largely unnoticed. He has uncovered what appear to be “political gifts.”
The Trump Foundation made a $100,000 contribution to David Bossie’s conservative activist group Citizens United. At the time, New York attorney-general Eric Schneiderman was launching a fraud prosecution against Mr. Trump and Trump University. Meanwhile Citizens United was a suing Schneirdeman in federal court over his effort to require nonprofits like Citizens United to disclose their donors under seal to the New York State Charities Bureau. Donald Trump had never previously supported Citizens United and it was the largest donation that the foundation made that year. Effectively, this translates to “the enemy (Citizens United) of my enemy (Scheiderman) is my friend.”
The foundation also donated $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, which was illegal and resulted in a fine which Donald Trump paid. According to Fahrenthold, “Trump’s staffers said a series of errors resulted in the payment being made and then hidden from the IRS.”
The illegal campaign contribution happened after she became one of several attorneys general who were part of the Trump University fraud investigations. After receiving the illegal contribution, Bondi dropped the investigation, which made it appear that she was paid to look away.
According to the senior vice president and controller at the Trump Foundation, Mr. Trump reimbursed the foundation the full $25,000 from his personal account; however, this cannot be independently verified because Mr. Trump refuses to release his tax returns.