The Washington Post released a lengthy expose on Donald Trump’s charity Sunday, following up previous reports that the Republican presidential candidate hasn’t donated to The Trump Foundation himself since 2008. Trump started the “small charity” in 1987 as the sole donor — claiming to want to give away some proceeds from The Art Of The Deal — until accepting outside donations in 2001. Today, the bulk of the foundation’s money comes from outside donations and Trump then seems to spend them as if they his own according to The Washington Post:
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.
This spending includes a variety of items over the years, including his donation to Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi that resulted in Trump paying a fine to the IRS. This type of political use of charity funds is also illegal according to The Washington Post report, but it is hardly the most glaring use of Trump Foundation funds to be found in the expose. The entire report is filled with tales revolving around Trump gifting outside donations as his own, highlighted by a $150,000 donation from The Evans Foundation that Trump gifted to a police group in South Florida, and several instances of promised donations never being received.
But the art of “self-dealing” with The Trump Foundation’s money may be one of the strangest and brazen examples included by The Washington Post:
In two cases, he has used money from his charity to buy himself a gift. In one of those cases — not previously reported — Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself.
The painting in question comes from a charity event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in Florida. The 2007 event featured speed painter Michael Israel as the entertainment, creating a portrait of Trump in his ‘five to seven-minute’ style before auctioning it off. That’s where The Trump Foundation comes in according to The Washington Post:
He painted Trump.
Melania Trump bid $10,000.
Nobody tried to outbid her.
“The auctioneer was just pretty bold, so he said, ‘You know what just happened: When you started bidding, nobody’s going to bid against you, and I think it’s only fair that you double the bid,’ ” Israel said in an interview last week.
Melania Trump increased her bid to $20,000.
“I understand it went to one of his golf courses,” Israel said of the painting.
The other gift in question was a signed football helmet from then Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. According to The Post, Trump won the auction for the memorabilia and then the foundation paid the $12,000 bill. As the expose points out, the IRS prohibits these such acts:
In both years, IRS forms asked whether the foundation had broken those rules: Had it “furnish[ed] goods, services or facilities” to Trump or another of its officers?
In both years, the Trump Foundation checked “no.”
Tax experts said Trump could have avoided violating the self-dealing rules if he gave the helmet and the painting to other charities instead of keeping them. Trump’s staffers have not said where the two items are now.
The IRS penalties for acts of “self-dealing” can include penalty taxes, both on charities and on their leaders as individuals.
This is only the tip of the revelations from The Washington Post on The Trump Foundation. As Washington attorney Brett Kappel says in the report, it all points to the charity being “run in a less-than-ideal manner.” Requests by The Post for comments by The Trump Foundation and the charities accountants at WeiserMazars were refused, leaving only the records to stand on their own. It is definitely worth a read, particularly if you’re interested in the lauded business side of Trump’s campaign.
(Via The Washington Post)