Whenever Donald Trump attacks a critic or opponent for doing something, it’s almost a certain bet that he is doing it himself. So it came as no surprise to many when it was revealed that the man who has repeatedly attacked the Clinton Foundation has had issues with his own alleged charity.
Thanks in part to the efforts of Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, we know a good deal about the GOP candidate’s relationship to his Trump Foundation. Most of what we have heard is not good. And on Tuesday Fahrenthold revealed even more damning info about how Trump abuses the money donated for what is supposed to be charitable work.
According to Fahrenthold’s research, Trump has not donated any of his own money to the Trump Foundation since 2009. Since 1990 the alleged billionaire has only contributed about $3.7 million, which means he isn’t even the biggest donor to his own charity. This makes him an oddity in the world of philanthropy — a man with a self-named charity who gives almost none of his own money to support it.
Fahrenthold says that from its founding in 1987 until 2006, Trump ran the foundation almost totally with his money. But in 2006 he gave away everything he had contributed, leaving the charity with only $4,238. In more recent years the largest donors to the foundation have been Vince and Linda McMahon, of professional wrestling fame. Tax records show the McMahons donated $5 million between 2007 and 2009 — more than the total Trump has contributed since the foundation’s inception.
Trump has been quite happy to use money donated by others to take care of his problems. Fahrenthold details how Trump has repeatedly violated IRS rules prohibiting “self-dealing.” That is the term that refers to taking money from a charity and using it for personal interests, rather than the interest of the charity. Trump has used his foundation’s money to buy a Tim Tebow autographed football helmet and a six-foot-tall painting of himself. But now Fahrerthold’s research has uncovered that Trump has also used foundation money to pay fines and other legal issues.
In 2006, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Golf Club put up an 80-foot flagpole. But local ordinances required that flagpoles be 42 feet high or less. The town fined Trump $1,250 a day.
The club sued the town in federal court, claiming that a smaller pole would not “appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s . . . patriotism.” The parties reached a settlement, with the town agreeing to waive the fine, which stood at $120,000, if Trump would donate $100,000 to a local veterans’ charity. Trump agreed, and wrote the check — from a Trump Foundation account.
To show his incredible generosity, Trump went above and beyond, donating another $25,000 to another veterans’ group. That money also came from the Trump Foundation.
Then there was the case of Martin Greenberg. Greenberg won a $1 million prize for sinking a hole-in-one during a charity tournament at Trump’s golf club in Westchester, N.Y. Or so he thought. The rules required that the shot had to travel at least 150 yards, but Trump’s club had allegedly made the hole short, making it ineligible for the contest. Greenberg sued, and Trump’s club worked out a settlement, agreeing to donate $158,000 to an organization of Greenberg’s choice. That donation also came from the Trump Foundation.
Tax experts agree that both of those cases appear to violate rules against self-dealing. Fahrenthold quotes San Francisco attorney Rosemary E. Fei, who counsels non-profits:
Yes, Trump pledged as part of the settlement to make a payment to a charity, and yes, the foundation is writing a check to a charity. But the obligation was Trump’s. And you can’t have a charitable foundation paying off Trump’s personal obligations. That would be classic self-dealing.
Fahrenthold also details two other, smaller donations that appear to violate self-dealing rules. In one, a $5,000 donation to a Washington, D.C. historical preservation group bought advertising for Trump’s new D.C. hotel. The other involved yet another painting of himself the billionaire bought at a charity event, and paid for with Trump Foundation money.
Here we have a man who has a track record of using other people’s money to purchase things he wants, and to settle legal issues that were incurred by his businesses. And somewhere around half of the Americans who plan on voting in November want to give him the keys to the national treasury.
Featured image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images