POSTED BY JOHN K. WILSON
Donald Trump announced today that he will be shutting down the Donald J. Trump Foundation. But he won’t be shutting down the investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office, nor should he shut down the scrutiny over his corrupt charity.
The Trump Foundation existed for Trump to use for his personal and political gain. Now he has the federal government to do that.
The Trump Foundation was a charity in the same way that Trump University was an institution of higher education: it was started as a grand gesture but turned into nothing but a fraud designed to benefit Donald Trump.
While Trump constantly attacked Hillary Clinton over the actions of the Clinton Foundation, Trump’s abuse of nonprofit law was unquestionably far worse.
As I noted in my book, Trump Unveiled: Exposing the Bigoted Billionaire, The Trump Foundation was a self-serving scheme that Trump repeatedly used in illegal ways to benefit himself. Initially, Trump used it as a typical corporate foundation designed to spend a small amount of money to make himself look good. Then he used it to financially benefit himself, in ways big and small. The Trump Foundation even donated $7 to the Boy Scouts, apparently to pay for the membership fee of Trump’s son Barron.
In 2012, Trump wanted a football helmet signed by Tim Tebow that was part of a charity auction. Trump made the winning bid of $12,000, but he used his foundation to pay the check. It’s definitely not legal for directors of charities to use a foundation to benefit themselves, and it’s doubtful that the foundation wanted a football helmet.
Trump’s campaign released a 93-page list of 4,844 gifts Trump made over the past five years, totaling $102 million. But a Washington Post investigation discovered that none of these gifts “was actually a personal gift of Trump’s own money.” Instead, the gifts came from Trump’s foundation (which Trump hasn’t donated to since 2009) or from Trump’s businesses, such as a free round of golf. One donation to Serena Williams never went to her charity; instead, it consisted of a free ride for her on his plane from a Trump resort event, and a free framed photo of himself. More than half of the $102 million value came from “conservation easements” that actually profited Trump and his companies with dubious tax breaks. Trump agreed not to build homes in an area he owned near his golf course, and instead turned it into a driving range with a bonus tax break.
Trump regularly has promised that he gives the proceeds of an enterprise to charity: his book Crippled America; Trump Vodka; Trump University. Trump may be reluctant to release his tax returns due to his lack of charitable donations. Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold asked more than 200 charities about any donations from Donald Trump since 2008, and discovered only one small gift. Instead, Trump used money from friends and associates to fund his personal needs under the guise of charity. The biggest donor was Linda McMahon, who was rewarded with a post running the Small Business Administration.
Trump has promised to target nonprofit universities and take away their tax-deductible status unless they give into to his demands, ostensibly to help poor students. But that threat against higher education institutions would be more difficult to implement so long as the Trump Foundation, which never helped the poor, was still operating.
In September 2013, a few days after it was revealed that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to join the lawsuit against Trump University, she requested a donation from Trump to her political organization, And Justice for All. The Trump Foundation illegally gave her organization a $25,000 gift, confusing it with a non-profit group that had the same name. The mix-up over the different organizations only happened because this wasn’t a typical foundation request: it was a directive that came straight from Donald Trump to flatter a politician by providing a gift to what he mistakenly assumed was her nonprofit group. During the 2016 campaign, Trump regularly handed out checks from his foundation to charities at his rallies. Trump ordered his foundation to give more than $150,000 to the American Conservative Union Foundation, which helped him get prime speaking opportunities at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which aided him in his presidential ambitions.
The Trump Foundation was never a real charity. It was a scam designed by Trump to serve its founder’s petty and political desires. Now that he has the power of the presidency, he no longer needs the façade of a foundation to gain power, and he chooses Christmas Eve in an attempt to bury the story of his corruption.