Donald Trump loves to brag about his businesses’ corporate philanthropy, although he refuses to disclose how that money is collected or spent. Unlike the vast majority of companies, which disclose how and how much they spend on charitable donations and community projects, Trump’s portfolio of businesses lacks transparency.
The evidence also suggests Trump's donations are more about his personal branding than doing good. Last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into the Trump Foundation, the means by which The Donald fuels his political foundations. The result was a wave of anti-Semitic comments from the Republican candidate’s supporters.
The investigation stems from “troubling transactions that have recently come to light," Politico reported last week. Recent investigations, first by the Associated Press and then the Washington Post, allege the Trump Foundation broke Internal Revenue Service rules governing how nonprofits file paperwork. The AP investigation revealed that a $25,000 donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi coincided with her office’s decision to drop an investigation of Trump University.
In previous litigation over Trump’s alleged real-estate training scam in California, the presidential candidate demanded the presiding judge step aside because he is “Mexican.” Both Trump and Bondi (rumored to be a gubernatorial candidate in Florida for 2018) denied any such deal has been made. And Trump reportedly paid a $2,500 penalty for making a political donation through a charitable foundation. But as the New York Times reported, denials of a quid pro quo are suspect. After all, Trump boasted throughout his campaign that he has been been able to use his largess to buy influence and access from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
But it is the investigation by the Post that reveals the shady nature of Trump’s charity. According to reporter David Fahrenthold, the Trump Foundation began accepting donations from others in 2001. By 2007, Trump was no longer donating any money to his own charity, but was accepting checks from individuals and foundations. Documents reveal that Trump spent $20,000 of the foundation’s money on a six-foot painting of himself – in violation of laws that prohibit citizens from using a nonprofit’s money to buy gifts for themselves.
Trump has a history of accepting donations to the foundation from other nonprofits, only to present those donations to organizations, including a South Florida police charity, as his own. Fahrenthold even suggested Trump has made money off of charitable events, with one example being the $276,463 fee the Palm Beach Police Foundation paid to rent his Mar-a-Lago estate in 2010. The bottom line is that a family-run charity is taking money from others, without donating any of Trump’s or family members’ own funds, and passing off those donations as its own.
Trump, notorious for going against Republican orthodoxy by litigating in order to get what he wants, is certainly not going to back down from these latest legal battles. Neither are his supporters, who incidentally have a history of making derogatory comments toward Jews. Since he announced his office’s investigation, Schneiderman says he has been the subject of anti-Semitic attacks, a story picked up by the New York Post. The paper endorsed George W. Bush for his re-election campaign in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2012, but during this election, it has been stridently against Trump’s candidacy.
At a time when businesses go out of their way to be more inclusive, Trump's actions, and those of his supporters, make it clear the only ones welcome are those who agree with Trump's views -- and an opaque way of running an organization at any cost.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.