Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Trump Used Charitable Contributions to Pay His Private Businesses' Legal Expenses

The Republicans have, rightly, hammered Hillary Clinton over the Clinton Foundation raising funds from foreign leaders at the same time she was Secretary of State. That is at the very least an appearance of impropriety that should have been avoided.

Leading the attacks on the Clinton Foundation has been GOP nominee Donald Trump.  Not surprisingly, as he is on so many subjects, Donald Trump is a hypocrite. Turns out the Trump didn't just engage in an appearance of impropriety with his foundation, he apparently brazenly engaged in outright impropriety. The Washington Post today reports that Trump used foundation money, i.e. other people's charitable contributions, to pay settlements of lawsuits involving his for profit businesses:
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.
Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly
Donald Trump
documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.
In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.
In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.
The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.
Or, rather, another portrait of himself.
Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.
If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the office of the New York attorney general, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.
More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.
“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”
“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.
Rosemary E. Fei, a lawyer in San Francisco who advises nonprofits, said both cases clearly fit the definition of self-dealing.    
 “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,” Fei said. “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.”
The article includes copies of checks and other documents.  It also goes on to tell the story about one of of the legal settlements of a lawsuit filed by a golfer playing in a Trump charity tournament that promised a $1 million prize for a hole-in-one during the tournament.  The golfer got the hole-in-one. But it turns out the prize's rules required the shot to go 150 yards and the Trump course was designed so the hole would only be 147 yards.  

Using a charity funded by other people to pay his private legal bills... yes that sounds like Donald Trump.  Promising to pay $1 million for a hole-in-one while designing the course so that the hole is 3 yards short to qualify for a payout, yep that is exactly the sort of stunt Donald Trump would pull.  Is there any wonder why Trump would be audited by the IRS?  Why anyone would consider voting for such a fraud, a man who thinks he is above laws that the rest of us have to follow, is a mystery to me.

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