Today (June 14) we learned from The Washington Post and the New York Times that the State of “New York is suing the Trump foundation, accusing it of vast lawbreaking. It wants to bar the president and his children from serving on charities.” (NY Times email, Thursday, June 14, 2018 10:57 AM EST).
Let me start be recapping some of my blogging about the Trump Foundation during the 2016 campaign.
What the Trump Foundation is and is not, what it does and does not
During the 2016 campaign I wrote several pieces about the Trump Foundation. Here, in short form, is the chronology
Monday, August 29, 2016 The speech Hillary should give about the Clinton Foundation Reporting on the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation - why they are different in mission, magnitude, and results. The Clinton Foundation raises and expends hundreds of millions of dollars on charitable enterprises around the world - all operated by the foundation. The Trump Foundation is “non-operational” meaning that it functions as a pass-through channeling donated funds to other entities.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016 Trump Foundation is Trump’s personal slush fund …
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.”
Sunday, September 25, 2016 Trump and the truth: His charitable giving
This is just one more area in which Trump and his representatives lie to the American people. John Cassidy of the New Yorker pulls together the facts - numbers that prove, when it comes to philanthropy, Donald Trump to be a penny pinching piker. Equally importantly, it appears that his foundation has recently been making donations of a political nature to other “charities.”
Thursday, December 29, 2016 The Trump Foundation in the Mind and Mouth of the Master of Mendacity
… charitable foundations abide by strict rules when it comes to what they spend money on. And political donations are illegal. It is now well known that the Trump Foundation crossed that line when it gave money to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s campaign. One of the consequences is that the Trump Foundation is now under investigation by the New York Attorney General.
One requirement of causation is an antecedent-consequence relationship: Bondi asks for money, gets money, and drops investigation of Trump University. But perhaps more seriously, it looks like someone at the Trump Foundation, tried to cover up the Bondi donation by listing it as a nonexistent donation to that Kansas charity.
Monday, June 12, 2017 Making money on kids with cancer and other toons
The Daily Intelligencer (NY Magazine) puts the question: Did the Trump Organization Make Money From Eric Trump’s Cancer Charity? The answer? Yes. “… In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free–that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament. … Additionally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization. …”
Here’s the original reporting, complete with the answer and evidence, on How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business from Forbes magazine.
For example: "… the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.’
It is this co-mingling of business, political, and charitable finances that is now causing more legal trouble for Donald Trump.
New York state sues Trump Foundation
Here are snippets from the Times’ report that N.Y. Attorney General Sues Trump Foundation Over Sweeping Violations.
The New York State attorney general’s office filed a scathingly worded lawsuit on Thursday taking aim at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.
The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the foundation and bar President Trump and three of his children from serving on nonprofit organizations, was an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting president. The attorney general also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action, adding to Mr. Trump’s extensive legal problems.
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, culminated a nearly two-year investigation of Mr. Trump’s charity, which became a subject of scrutiny during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. While such foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities, the complaint asserts that Mr. Trump’s was often used to curry political favor or settle legal claims against his various businesses, and even spent $10,000 on a portrait of Mr. Trump that was hung at one of his golf clubs.
The $10,000 portrait was one of several examples of the foundation being used in “at least five self-dealing transactions,” according to the attorney general’s office, violating tax regulations that prohibit using nonprofit charities for private interests.
"As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” said Barbara D. Underwood, New York’s attorney general, who has been on her job little over a month. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the foundation accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”
The attorney general’s office is seeking $2.8 million in restitution, and the foundation and its directors could face several million dollars in additional penalties, depending on how the court rules. The office is also seeking to bar the president from serving as a director, officer or trustee of another nonprofit for 10 years. Likewise, the petition seeks to bar Mr. Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, from the boards of nonprofits based in New York or that operate in New York for one year, which would have the effect of barring them from a wide range of groups based in other states.
The foundation was explicitly “prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of a candidate,” the complaint notes, adding that Mr. Trump himself signed annual I.R.S. filings, under penalty of perjury in which he attested that the foundation did not engage in political activity. “This statutory prohibition is absolute.”
But roughly $2.8 million was raised for the foundation at a 2016 Iowa political fund-raiser for the Trump campaign. At the time, Mr. Trump skipped a Republican debate and set up his own event to raise money for veterans, though he used the event to skewer his opponents and celebrate his own accomplishments.
After the event, his foundation “ceded control over the charitable funds it raised to senior Trump campaign staff, who dictated the manner in which the foundation would disburse those proceeds, directing the timing, amounts and recipients of the grants,” according to the complaint.
Allowing the campaign to control the spending of the foundation’s charitable funds represented coordination between the two entities, as well “as an improper in-kind contribution of no less than $2.823 million (the amount donated to the foundation) to the campaign,” according to the lawsuit.
Ms. Underwood, who is a career prosecutor rather than a politician, recently accused Mr. Trump of “undermining the rule of law” with his pardon practices. She made the comment when she announced she was continuing an effort begun under Mr. Schneiderman to change New York’s double jeopardy law so that state and local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned.