The Washington Post has a story on Donald Trump’s charity foundation which is getting a lot of attention today. What it shows is several donations, two of them fairly large, which directly benefited his for-profit businesses. From the Washington Post:
In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.
In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.
In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.
There are more examples but those are the big ones. What’s the problem with this? Well, it’s illegal for charity leaders to direct the money they control in a way that benefits themselves. Jeffrey Tenenbaum, a lawyer who represents nonprofits, tells the Post, “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.” The Trump campaign didn’t respond to the Post’s questions about the payments.
If the IRS found these payments to be “self-dealing,” Trump could be required to pay back the money and possibly to pay fines. Trump has already paid back a $25,000 donation his charity made to Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi. Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty in that case.
Given all the storms that Trump has weathered so far, it’s hard to believe this one is going to do any significant damage to his campaign. What it will do is give the Clinton campaign a way to push back on talk about the Clinton Foundation. If the Clinton’s can’t win the argument over the nature of their Foundation, they’d certainly prefer it if the public decides the issue is a draw.