Trump dipped into his charity

He used $258K of foun­da­tion’s funds on busi­ness is­sues

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By David A. Fahrenthold

WASHINGTON — Don­ald Trump spent more than a quar­ter-mil­lion dol­lars from his char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion to set­tle law­suits that in­volved the bil­lion­aire’s 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 doc­u­mented ex­pen­di­tures in which Trump may have vi­o­lated laws against “self­deal­ing” — 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. Don­ald Trump, on the left in this un­dated photo, twice used Trump Foun­da­tion money on por­traits of him­self.

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 Washington, D.C., preser­va­tion group.

“The foun­da­tion wrote a check that es­sen­tially bought ad­ver­tis­ing for Trump ho­tels?” asked John Edie, the long­time gen­eral coun­sel for the Coun­cil on Foun­da­tions, when a re­porter de­scribed this ar­range­ment. “That’s not charity.”

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. “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 self­deal­ing (as) I’ve seen in a while.”

The Washington Post sent the Trump cam­paign ques­tions about the four cases but re­ceived no re­sponse.

The cases of pos­si­ble self-deal­ing were dis­cov­ered in the Trump Foun­da­tion’s tax fil­ings.

While Trump has re­fused to re­lease his per­sonal tax re­turns, the foun­da­tion’s fil­ings are re­quired to be pub­lic.

HAVI SCHANZ

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