Trump Foundation Sleaziness Surfaces Yet Again


Rebecca Berg reports on yet more possible sleaziness surrounding the Trump Foundation:

As Donald Trump began making noise about a possible bid for president in 2011, South Carolina conservative activist Oran Smith caught the celebrity businessman’s eye….Trump called Smith and invited him to meet at Trump Tower in New York….Trump was “laying the foundation for a … campaign,” Smith thought at the time.

During their meeting in Trump’s office, they discussed Christian faith and religious liberty. Smith was struck by “a different Donald Trump than I expected.” On his way out the door, Smith asked that Trump consider donating to the Palmetto Family Council….Trump delivered. “It was a quiet donation that came with a simple cover letter,” Smith said. It read: “Great meeting with you and your wife in my office,” dated May 6, 2011. Enclosed was a check for $10,000 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

….From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation’s tax filings found. In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.

There is nothing wrong with a presidential wannabe contributing money to groups that might help him politically. Nor is there anything wrong with a presidential PAC contributing money to potential supporters. But there is something wrong with the director of a charity contributing money to a group in order to benefit the director himself:

The donations to groups that granted Trump plum speaking slots or otherwise promoted his political aspirations also might run afoul of self-dealing rules for private foundations, which prohibit a foundation’s leadership from using donor money for its own gain.

“Getting the right to speak or access to networking events, that’s definitely starting to push into self-dealing, where you’re using the private foundation assets to benefit Mr. Trump,” said Rosemary Fei, a partner at the Adler & Colvin law firm in San Francisco, where she specializes in charity law.

Once again, we see that Donald Trump viewed his foundation as a personal piggy bank, useful mainly as a vehicle for tossing around money that might benefit himself or his businesses. The amount given to charities with the goal of simply helping other people appears to be minuscule. If there’s nothing in it for Trump, he just doesn’t bother with it.