For Trump, that wasn’t a one-time transgression. There were other occasions when he courted public esteem for charitable giving, but actually used foundation money:
The Trump Foundation … even gives in situations in which Trump publicly put himself on the hook for a donation—as when he promised a gift ‘out of my wallet’ on NBC’s ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,’” The Post investigation concluded. “The Trump Foundation paid off most of those on-air promises. A TV production company paid others. The Post could find no instance in which a celebrity’s charity got a gift from Trump’s own wallet. Another time, Trump went on TV’s “Extra” for a contest called ‘Trump pays your bills!’ A professional spray-tanner won.
The Trump Foundation paid her bills.
Remember, the Trump Foundation doesn’t use Trump’s money. In other words, the masses watching on television were egregiously misled about Trump’s generosity.
That’s the sort of guy he is.
Law-Breaking at the Trump Foundation
The gulf between the charitable giving for which Trump claims credit and what really comes out of his pocket would be discrediting even if that were all there is to this story. But Trump didn’t just use his foundation to make himself look better than he deserved. He also used it to funnel money to a government official charged with deciding whether to investigate Trump University for defrauding customers.
Pam Bondi is the attorney general of Florida. While deciding whether to open an investigation into Trump University, a for-profit institution that persuaded working class strivers to run up massive credit-card debt in the over-credulous pursuit of success, Bondi apparently solicited a campaign contribution from Donald Trump. As Fortune notes, “The story of how a Bondi PAC received a big check from Trump Tower just days before the AG declined to probe Trump U, how the money arrived as an illegal gift from, of all sources, Trump’s charitable foundation, and the remarkable string of coincidences the Trump camp claims led to an innocent error, forms one of the most intriguing, ongoing subplots of the presidential campaign.”
It would be bad enough if Trump, who has bragged repeatedly about giving to politicians so that they’re indebted to him, had given $25,000 to Bondi from his personal account.
But he didn’t just funnel money to an elected official who was deciding whether to investigate him for criminal misbehavior. He used money that was supposed to go to charity! As the Washington Post explained, “The donation, made by the Donald J. Trump Foundation, violated federal rules that prohibit charities from donating to political candidates.” Wouldn’t the IRS catch on as soon as it saw the public donation?
As it happened, the “charitable gift” was misreported by the Trump organization. Here is how Fortune summed up the excuses offered by the billionaire’s staff:
At Trump Tower, the staff sprung into damage control. A staff that prides itself on rarely apologizing admitted to a remarkable series of errors. In interviews, the Trump braintrust—Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization and treasurer of the Foundation, and other Trump executives—gave an intricate explanation of how they occurred. Shortly after Bondi asked Trump for a contribution, they said, a request for payment arrived at Trump’s headquarters in September, 2013. The clerk who received the RFP didn’t recognize the name And Justice For All, and mistook it for a charity. He was under a standing order to verify that charities requesting donations were bona fide by checking their names in an official registry.
The clerk found a charity of the same name in Wichita, Kansas, and wrote a $25,000 check from the Trump Foundation to that And Justice for All. But the funds didn’t go to the Kansas group that provides people with disabilities with legal assistance. Instead, the check went to the pro-Bondi PAC in Tampa. The Trump staff was unable to explain why, if the money was intended for the Wichita charity, it was mailed to a different address in Florida.
...When the Donald J. Trump Foundation filed its annual report with the IRS (called a form 990), it reported the $25,000 gift to still another charity named Justice for All (no “And” in its name) based in Utah. This organization that trains anti-abortion activists also received no funding from the Trump Foundation. The Trump brass blamed this error on the Foundation’s accountant. “From what I’m told they made a typographical mistake on the return,” explained Weisselberg, who added that these types of things happen “all the time.”
...Trump personally paid a $2,500 penalty, equivalent to 10% of the illegal donation, to the IRS. The PAC supporting Bondi, obviously embarrassed, mailed a $25,000 refund to the Foundation. Trump declined to cash the check, and instead reimbursed the Foundation for the full $25,000 from his own funds. Hence, the pro-Bondi PAC kept the money.
To believe that these were innocent mistakes strains credulity past the breaking point. This has all the appearance of political corruption and attempts to cover up that corruption. Why hasn’t Trump faced tougher questions about this incredible series of events?