Donald Trump Used Charity Money To Buy Tim Tebow-Autographed Memorabilia, According To Reports
Donald Trump used money that had been donated to one of his charities – not his own money – to buy a Tim Tebow-autographed football helmet, possibly violating IRS rules, the Washington Post is reporting.
Back in 2012, Tim Tebow, the devoutly-Christian former Heisman Trophy winner, was enjoying leading the Denver Broncos to the postseason and was still a hot commodity in the sports memorabilia industry. At the time, the autographed Denver Broncos helmet he had donated to a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation was expected to command a high price at a charity auction to be held in Palm Beach.
— highly awe-inspiring (@gradguarino) June 29, 2016
And fetch a high price it did. A bidding war between Trump and at least one other donor drove the price of the helmet up to $12,000, and Trump won the auction. He even posed for a photo of himself with his new prize.
At the time, the staggeringly generous donation was hailed as an example of Trump’s charitable largess. A gushing headline in the Palm Beach Daily News declared, “The Donald giveth, and The Donald payeth. Blessed be the name of The Donald.”
The problem, as a Washington Post investigation would later reveal, is that the check used to pay for Tebow’s helmet wasn’t drawn on Trump’s personal account. In fact, the helmet was paid for with a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity Trump manages and for which he’s the president. At the time, Trump hadn’t donated any of his own money to the foundation in three years; the money in that foundation was not Trump’s — it was donated by other people.
Donald Trump’s idea of charity is buying a Tim Tebow helmet for $12,000 and paying for it with other people’s money. pic.twitter.com/WQIFCR6Kkc
— John Ferguson (@Fearguth) July 1, 2016
In fact, the Susan G. Komen Foundation clarified that Trump had never made a donation of his own money to the breast-cancer research foundation.
Despite the ethical implications of paying for a high-priced gift with other people’s money — money that had ostensibly been donated to charity — there may be legal implications for Trump as well.
The IRS forbids charitable foundations from using its own money to buy goods for its officers — “self-dealing,” as the IRS calls it — and any person who breaks that rule is supposed to notify the IRS. According to the Trump Foundation’s 2012 tax returns, no such notification was given to the tax collection agency.
Tax expert Brett G. Kappel says that, on the surface, it appears that Trump violated IRS rules.
“That would be a classic violation of the prohibition on a charity being operated for the private [benefit] of the charity’s creator.”
However, Trump may be able to avoid penalties if he can show that he used the helmet for another charitable purpose — for example, donating it to another charity auction. Giving it to a “golfing buddy,” says attorney John Edie, would not cut it.
As of this writing, it’s not clear what happened to the Tebow helmet. Last year, the Wall Street Journal posted video of Trump’s office in New York, wherein Trump showed off a table full of football helmets. The autographed Tim Tebow helmet did not appear to be among them.
Interestingly, as Tim Tebow’s career has waned, so has the value of his memorabilia. In 2012, Tebow was a starting quarterback on a playoff team, and four years later, he’s currently working as a college football analyst for ESPN, but his NFL career prospects are uncertain. The value of his memorabilia has reflected his declining career: a Tebow-autographed Denver Broncos helmet such as the one Donald Trump bought for $12,000 can now be found online for around $400.
As of this writing, Donald Trump has not responded to requests for comment about his purchasing of the Tim Tebow helmet with charitable money.
[Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]