Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Trump Foundation is Trump's personal slush fund ...

... using other people's money. And making non-charitable expenditures. To put it charitably.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) provides a summary of the latest investigation into the Trump Foundation, Trump Foundation faces controversial new allegations. Snippets follow.

For months, Donald Trump’s foundation, ostensibly created to help the New York billionaire manage his charitable giving, has faced a series of allegations, most notably an illegal campaign contribution in support of Florida’s attorney general – while she was considering an investigation into Trump’s so-called “university.”

But the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who’s done exceptional work digging into the Trump Foundation, isn’t done with this story. The Post published this report over the weekend:

The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation – including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries – found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.

For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money – an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.

Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.

It’s a story so odd, it’s almost hard to believe. The point of creating the Trump Foundation in the first place was to create a vessel for Trump to support charitable work. And while it’s true that the foundation has made contributions to worthy causes in recent years, the Post’s investigation nevertheless found that the Donald J. Trump Foundation has distributed other people’s money – not Donald J. Trump’s. The self-professed billionaire solicited funds from allies, and then distributed the money under his own foundation’s name.

As usual, Trump spokespersons provide no details about the 10s of millions Trump is claimed to have given from his personal funds.

And then there’s that giant portrait of Trump bought with foundation money.

In 2007, for instance, Trump and his wife, Melania, attended a benefit for a children’s charity held at Mar-a-Lago. The night’s entertainment was Michael Israel, who bills himself as “the original speed painter.” His frenetic act involved painting giant portraits in five to seven minutes — then auctioning off the art he’d just created.

He painted Trump.

Melania Trump bid $10,000.

As it happens, nobody tried to outbid Trump’s wife, who nevertheless increased her bid to $20,000. She won the auction and the Trump Foundation paid for the portrait.

The painter told the Post, “I understand it went to one of his golf courses.”

For much of the political world, the presidential candidate with controversial ties to a charitable foundation is Hillary Clinton. There’s ample evidence, however, that it’s her rival with a real scandal on his hands.

This is a disgrace. Now if the rest of the media would follow up ...

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