I guess the media got what they wanted — a horserace. They breathlessly report story after story about how the Clinton Foundation might have the “appearance” of impropriety (despite admitting that there was no actual impropriety), while at the same time pretty much ignoring two smoking guns of real illegal activity with the Trump Foundation. So the race between Clinton and Trump stops being a boring blowout and starts “tightening”.
Ok, that worked. But now that the race is tight, where is the investigation of the Trump Foundation?
In case you haven’t heard about it, here’s the synopsis: First, several state attorneys general receive enough complaints that Trump University is fraudulently calling itself a university, not to mention blatantly lying about the courses it offers and the “faculty” it hires.
Next, while her office is investigating fraud from Trump University, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi actually asks Donald Trump for a donation and gets one. She even admits she solicited the contribution. She then drops the case.
Not only that, but the money (cough, bribe) given to Bondi is not Trump’s money, it is money from the Trump Foundation (donated by other people — Trump has not put any of his own money into the Foundation since 2008, and little since 1988). It is illegal for charitable foundations to give money to political candidates. The IRS fines them … a paltry $2,500.
The Trump Foundation covers up the donation in their tax filings. Instead of listing the donation as going to Pam Bondi’s Florida political group “And Justice for All” they list it as going to a Kansas charity with the same name (even though they never donated to that charity).
Trump announces “Pam Bondi is a fabulous representative of the people — Florida is lucky to have her” and holds a fundraiser for her (even though he had never donated to her before). Eventually, she even speaks at the Republican National Convention. This is actual “pay to play”.
Similarly, in Texas the Republican attorney general (and now governor) overruled the investigator’s recommendation for legal action against Trump University. Shortly after that, Trump donated $35,000 to his campaign.
Trump has even bragged about bribing politicians:
I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.
And what about politicians that Trump can’t bribe? In New York, the attorney general proceeds with their lawsuit charging Trump University with fraud. Trump then donates $100,000 to Citizens United Foundation (yes, that Citizens United), which is supposedly a non-profit. Citizens United uses that money to fund a lawsuit against the New York Attorney General. It was the largest donation the Trump Foundation made that year, even though it was the first time that it had ever donated to Citizens United.
The ploy didn’t work — the judge dismissed the Citizens United case against the NY Attorney General. Eventually, the man who runs Citizens United becomes Trump’s deputy campaign manager.
These aren’t the only shady things done by the Trump Foundation.
In 2010, Trump solicited a donation to the Trump Foundation from the Charles Evans Foundation in New Jersey, and they gave him $150,000. It isn’t clear what the Charles Evens Foundations received in return, but Trump turned around and donated that money (without adding any of his own) to the Palm Beach Police Foundation. The Palm Beach Police Foundation then gave Trump an award for his “selfless support”. I guess it really was selfless, because it wasn’t any of Trump’s money. And here’s the kicker. The Police Foundation held an award ceremony for Trump, and of course it was held at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and they paid Trump $276,263 to rent the space — almost twice as much as the amount of the donation!
If that isn’t bad enough, in 2007, Trump and his wife were attending a benefit for a children’s charity (of course, the benefit was held at Mar-a-Lago). The event auctioned off a 6-foot-tall portrait of The Donald. The winner? Melania Trump. But the bill was paid by the Trump Foundation, even though using charity money to buy stuff for yourself is illegal. The painting now resides at one of Trump’s golf courses.
This wasn’t the last time the Trumps bought stuff for themselves using charity money. In 2012, Trump bought a helmet and jersey signed by Tim Tebow, using money from his foundation.
I’m sure there is more, but we will never know unless Trump magically decides to release his tax returns (don’t hold your breath).
Besides, the media is much more preoccupied with the Clinton Foundation, which, you know, actually is a charity that supports good causes.
Also published on Medium.