The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold on Tuesday published a series of stunning revelations about Donald Trump’s charitable foundation, reporting that the Republican presidential nominee used money from the Trump Foundation to pay legal fees related to his businesses.
The report, citing tax records, said Trump had not made a single donation to his charity since 2008 and sometimes used money from others through the foundation to pay off legal expenses.
The money relating to those expenses, which reportedly amounted to $258,000 from the Trump Foundation, may have violated “self-dealing” laws that prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money for self-benefit or the benefit of their for-profit businesses, according to The Post.
“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington, told The Post, later describing the details as “really shocking.”
“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” he continued.
Trump could be found in violation of self-dealing rules from the Internal Revenue Service, The Post said, which could require him to pay penalties or reimburse the foundation’s money. He is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, The Post added, which could find him in violation of the state’s charity laws.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign fired off a response to the Post story soon after it was published.
“Clearly the Trump Foundation is as much a charitable organisation as Trump University is an institute of higher education,” Christina Reynolds, the campaign’s deputy communications director, said in a statement.
“Trump’s version of charity is taking money from others to settle his own legal issues and buy at least two pictures of himself, which experts say is a clear violation of laws governing charitable organisations.”
“Once again, Trump has proven himself a fraud who believes the rules don’t apply to him,” she continued. “It’s past time for him to release his tax returns to show whether his tax issues extend to his own personal finances.”
Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.
Here are some of the other revelations from Fahrenthold:
- Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach stemming from a dispute over the size of a flagpole. The tallest a flagpole could be in Palm Beach was 42 feet, but Trump insisted on an 80-foot pole, claiming that “you don’t need a permit to put up the American flag.” The town agreed to waive the fines if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific veterans charity. But Trump instead sent a check from his foundation, Fahrenthold reported.
- Trump’s New York golf courses agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity, but the $158,000 donation was instead made by the Trump Foundation, according to The Post. The lawsuit was filed after a man, Martin Greenberg, hit a hole-in-one on the 13th hole at Trump’s Westchester, New York, golf course during a charity tournament, briefly winning $1 million, which was taken away after it was revealed that the shot did not travel a required 150 yards. Trump’s course was accused of intentionally making the hole too short.
- Trump spent $30,000 of foundation money on two portraits of himself.
- Trump spent $5,000 of foundation money to buy advertisements for his hotel chain.
- Trump spent $12,000 of foundation money to buy a football helmet signed by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.