Donald Trump has been doing a lot of dishing about the Clinton Foundation during the 2016 elections. But there’s one foundation he doesn’t want to talk much about: His own.
That was seen as a little strange to some journalists since most people like bragging about their charities so that they can raise more money for the people that need it. The Washington Post looked into it, and after several months of investigations, 17 years of tax returns, and over 200 interviews, they revealed some startling claims.
In a separate report this week, the Washington Post continued their report on the Trump Foundation, saying that over a quarter of a million dollars from the Trump Foundation has been used to pay his legal bills and buy artwork of himself, for himself.
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) September 20, 2016
Claims made by the Washington Post in these reports were so startling that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched an investigation into the Trump Foundation, reports ABC News.
But claims that Donald Trump used charity money to pay legal bills are not the claims that launched the investigation. In an earlier report on the Trump Foundation, the Washington Post stated that not only did Trump use other people’s money to give to charity, but he also broke the law by using charity money to donate to political campaigns.
Trump provided a $25,000 donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, given to her in 2013 for her 2014 campaign. After the illegality of it all surfaced, the money was returned, and Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 fine, reports Yahoo News.
Bondi’s responses to all of the alleged illegalities were “murky at best,” at least according to Rep. Ted Deutch, a South Florida Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, reports Yahoo News. The House Democrats are now calling for a deeper probe into all of this.
Not only did Donald Trump use charity money to donate to a political campaign, the tax returns for the foundation suggest he lied about some donations and where they were going, reports Fortune Magazine. This is also against the law.
Fortune Magazine says that the tax returns for the Trump Foundation list the $25,000 donation as going to a Utah charity. The Utah charity was contacted and revealed that they received nothing from the Trump Foundation. The Washington Post’s initial report on the Trump Foundation said that the organization claimed donations were sent to at least five charities that said they never received anything.
Stephen Colbert commented on the Pam Bondi political donation with his own personal twist.
He asked his viewers, “Can you find it in your heart to give? For just pennies a day, you too can pay off a Florida Attorney General.”
But why would Florida’s attorney general need to be paid off by Donald Trump? It all goes back to Trump University and the peculiar timing of the sequence of events that led Pam Bondi to accept the $25,000 donation at all.
Using foundation money for politics is against the law. But it was the first report by the Washington Post on September 11 that led New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to consider taking a second look at the Trump Foundation to see if it was in compliance with state law.
Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about that, which came out on September 11. He wants to talk about Hillary Clinton’s sick day.
Eric Schneiderman is not a name Donald Trump likes so much. Eric Schneiderman is also the attorney general who effectively closed down Trump University after multiple victims were scammed out of money from a university that effectively did not exist. And, oddly enough, the name Pam Bondi appears in many discussions regarding Trump University as well.
It all goes back to the timing of her $25,000 donation from the Trump Foundation. Fortune Magazine spells out that timeline.
— Video News (@mixnews88) June 2, 2016
On August 25, 2013, New York AG Eric Schneiderman filed a civil suit against Trump University and Donald Trump for “allegedly defrauding more than 5,000” people to the tune of over $40 million dollars. By September 14, 2013, Florida citizens were among the victims of Trump University, and the Orlando Sentinel reported that then attorney general of Florida was reviewing the New York lawsuit and considering whether or not they should join the case on behalf of Florida victims, according to Fortune Magazine.
Four days later, the $25,000 donation occurred and was received by an organization known as And Justice For All a Pam Bondi PAC. By the halfway point in October 2013, Pam Bondi’s office told Florida media that they would not be taking action or joining the lawsuit. They told Florida victims of Trump University that they would be covered under the New York lawsuit that “covered consumers nationwide,” reports Fortune Magazine.
Fortune Magazine also reported that since their report of that timeline, they have heard from the office of the Florida attorney general, who strongly denied ever stating its intention to join the New York lawsuit. Essentially, the Florida Attorney General is saying that they never even considered joining that lawsuit.
They say, Fortune reports, that their office only received one complaint from a Florida resident about Trump University. But Bondi’s predecessor received “over two dozen” complaints. Also, Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit shows “no fewer than” 827 courses taken by Florida residents.
So, clearly, Florida residents were victimized by the Trump University scandal. While this was happening, Florida’s attorney general was accepting $25,000 from the Trump Foundation. This may be what Stephen Colbert is referring to when he says “for just pennies a day you too can pay off a Florida attorney general.”
Trump University has not been in the news much since 2013, but it did come into the spotlight again this Summer at the Democratic National Convention when a Gold Star widow from Pennsylvania said that Trump University scammed her out of her military widow’s benefits that she wanted to use to better her life for herself after losing her husband in service to his country.
— Brenda Johnson (@TucsonVoice28) August 8, 2016
This, however, is not the only problem currently under investigation at the Trump Foundation. To note, the current directors of the Trump Foundation are Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr.
They all share the position of executive vice president of the Trump Organization. Ivanka and Donald Jr. have both attended the elite Wharton School of Business, while Eric has attended Georgetown. They would all, seemingly, be versed in the laws of the land and how to manage money. None of the Trump children have attended Trump University.
The Washington Post also reported that the Trump Foundation has very little of Trump’s own money as capital, which is seen as unusual, or “unheard of for a family foundation” in the non-profit sector. The Clinton Foundation, for example, has millions of the Clintons’ own cash. Donald Trump’s doesn’t.
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) September 21, 2016
According to tax records investigated by the Washington Post, the last time Trump donated to his own charity was 2008. He does accept donations from pretty much anyone else, though, and then “generally does with it as he pleases,” according to the Washington Post. Sometimes he even donates it to charity.
Twice, by the Washington Post’s current tally, Donald Trump has used the money to buy pictures of himself. One was a six-foot-tall painting, which he put up in the lobby of one of his hotels.
Other details the Post has come up with include a number of charities that the Trump Foundation says they gave money to, but the charity says it didn’t. In two instances, companies were also listed as donors to the charity, but those companies have told the Washington Post that “those listings are incorrect.”
The Washington Post then submitted a list of questions to the Trump camp on these matters, but the Trump camp declined to comment.
Vice presidential running mate to Hillary Clinton Tim Kaine said, “The foundation was being used basically to promote a money making fraudulent venture of Donald Trump’s. That’s not what charities are supposed to do.”
The foundation was launched in 1987, right around the time of Donald Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal was purposed, with funds from the book going to the Trump Foundation. Today, the foundation is described as “threadbare” and “skeletal.”
— Ken Simon (@KenSimonSays) September 12, 2016
The Washington Post says it’s never had more than $3.2 million in the bank and only has $1.3 million at present. By comparison, Oprah Winfrey’s charity has $1.5 billion in assets, and the Clinton Foundation has $440 million.
Unlike the Clinton Foundation, which has thousands of employees across the country, Donald Trump has no paid staffers. On the board are his children and one Trump Organization employee, says the Washington Post. Records from 2014 show that they give approximately “a half hour a week” to the Trump Foundation.
The Washington Post has also revealed extensive histories of times when the Trumps used money from the charity to buy something for themselves, which is against IRS regulations. In 2007, at a children’s charity gala held at the Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, Milania Trump bid on a painting of Donald Trump for $10,000. Nobody outbid her.
But she raised the bid anyway, to $20,000. At a similar charity event, Donald Trump won an autographed Denver Bronco’s helmet. He paid $12,000 for it out of his charity.
IRS charity forms specifically ask if the charity filing the returns has ever broken rules, such as furnishing goods to any of the charity officers. The Washington Post reports that the Trump Foundation has checked “no” when asked that specific question on the years in question when the paintings and football helmet were procured.
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) September 14, 2016
In a separate report out this week, the Washington Post said that their investigation has found that Donald Trump also used his charity to pay his legal bills to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. In 2007, Trump’s Mar-A-Largo resort in Florida ran into $120,000 in legal fines over a flag pole dispute.
The city of Palm Beach agreed to waive the fines if Trump gave a veteran’s group a $100,000 donation. Donald Trump used the Trump Foundation to cover that legal settlement. A similar situation happened in New York over a golf course dispute, where the plaintiff was awarded a $158,000 settlement that came out of the Trump Foundation.
As all of these matters come to light, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he is going to investigate the Trump Foundation just to see if it is complying with New York law, reports ABC News. Schneiderman is looking to see if the foundation is complying with state laws.
Donald Trump is listed as the president of the organization, his children sit on the board, and the CFO of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, serves as the foundation’s treasurer. ABC News reports the foundation only received two donations in 2014, according to tax records.
Richard Ebers has given over $1.8 million to the Trump Foundation between the years of 2011 and 2014. ABC News reports it is the political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi that has raised the eyebrows of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Donald Trump has made no secret of his feelings for Eric Schneiderman. ABC News reports that his response to this investigation is scathing.
Jason Miller, the communications adviser to the Trump Elections 2016 campaign, said in a statement to ABC, “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a partisan hack who has turned a blind eye to the Clinton Foundation for years and has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. This is nothing more than another left-wing hit job designed to distract from crooked Hillary Clinton’s disastrous week.”
Perhaps Jason Miller does not know of the relationship between the Trump Foundation and the Clinton Foundation. ABC News reports that tax records show that in 2009, a contribution to the Clinton Foundation from the Trump Foundation in the amount of $100,000 was received.
The Clinton Foundation also received $10,000 from the Trump Foundation in 2010. Anderson Cooper discusses that with Trump’s campaign manager here.
The Trump Foundation investigation by the Washington Post is also enough to cause speculation to rise regarding Donald Trump’s tax returns, reports the New Yorker. Is this the reason he isn’t releasing his returns?
We don’t know. We have previously reported that charitable donations, or lack thereof, are a possible reason why he hasn’t released his tax returns, as stated by a man who has actually seen the returns.
When asked about these matters today by CNN, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said, “I think you’re making things up based on facts as they are not reported in this story, which also uses a lot of conditional phrasing I’d like to point out.”
Kellyanne asked CNN’s Erin Burnett how the Mar-A-Largo business would benefit from a check being sent to veterans. Burnett answered that the business would benefit if the lawsuit went away. Kellyanne responded by talking about something completely different, saying that Trump gives away a lot of money privately.
Erin Burnett’s response was, if he released his tax returns, he’d be able to prove that. Kellyanne Conway did not have a comment for that.
What do you make of the Trump Foundation investigation?
[Featured Image by Bebeto Matthews/AP Images]