Donald Trump was forced to pay a penalty to the IRS this year in the amount of $2,500 after his foundation was busted donating $25,000 to Florida’s attorney general. As charitable foundations are forbidden from making political contributions, this gift violated tax law.
It is surely just a coincidence that when the Donald J. Trump Foundation wrote this benevolent check out to Attorney General Pam Bondi while she was making up her mind about whether or not to investigate allegations of fraud against Trump University. Surprise surprise, she decided not to pursue the matter. Go figure.
The shady donation was brought to light by the Washington Post and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group who eventually filed a complaint with the IRS. This complaint pointed out that since the Trump Foundation is registered as a nonprofit, donating to political campaigns is off limits.
The Post also outed Trump’s scheme to hide the illegal donation. Naturally, said the Trump campaign, this is all just mistake… er, a couple of mistakes. The result of a few clerical errors. But it sure looks like another one of the GOP nominee’s scams if you ask me.
Jeffrey McConney — senior vice president and controller at the Trump Organization — explained that this situation unfolded innocently. Honest. He noted that Trump had repaid the $25,000 to the foundation.
“It was just an honest mistake,” McConney said. He added: “It wasn’t done intentionally to hide a political donation, it was just an error.”
So here’s how this series of unfortunate events unfolded:
The sequence began when Bondi herself solicited a donation from Trump. That solicitation was reported this year by the Associated Press. That request came as Bondi was considering allegations that Trump University — a real estate seminar business — had defrauded customers in Florida.
Trump decided to make the donation to Bondi’s group, which was named “And Justice for All.” The clerk, who is authorized to write checks from both Trump’s personal account and the foundation’s account, made a mistake that could happen to any of us. Really. Trump’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, told The Post that when she was told to write the check, she mistook Bondi’s group for a group in Utah that had the same name. Whoops.
He insisted that if they had realized the check was destined for a political group, “we would have taken it out of [Trump’s] own personal account.” But, miraculously, the check ended up in Florida with Bondi’s group, not Utah.
When it came time for taxes to be filed, the Trump Foundation said that they had not made any political donations and listed the $25,000 as going to a group in Kansas that was similarly named “Justice for All.” Yet another accident, of course, which was the fault of the accountants this time. Double whoops.
Trump has paid his foundation back the $25,000, but according to IRS rules, that isn’t quite good enough. Bondi’s group needs to return the money. Nancy Watkins, the treasurer of Bondi’s political group, said they tried to give the money back after they found out the foundation was prohibited from making political contributions. However, the attempt was unsuccessful.
I wrote a check, sent it via FedEx. I received a call from the Trump Foundation, saying that they had declined to accept the refund,” Watkins said, adding that she was told, “Mr. Trump had reimbursed the foundation with a personal check. And that was the end of it.”
Jordan Liebowitz of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said that Trump reimbursing the foundation is “not the same” as the money being returned. “It’s about getting the money back from the organization that wasn’t allowed to have it in the first place.”
Featured image via Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images