Accounting is dry and boring, and who needs it anyway? Taxes and death, they happen, but they are equally exciting. Allow me to take the pain away. The Trump Foundation scandal has finally broken into the mainstream media, and the articles are flying all over the place. Pundits are punditing, and the punditry is…wordy. Eh…they get paid to sound that way.
Lemme simplify it. David Fahrenthold at WaPo looked at 24 years of Trump Foundation tax filings, which are publicly available.
Charitable Foundations exist like a clearing house for money. People put money into them, and the folks in charge (the board members) decide the best ways to use that money to help others. Some foundations, like the Clinton Foundation, do most of their work directly; they have specific projects, 2,000 employees, about $250 million per year, and occasionally partner with other organizations. For the record, the Clinton Foundation has received top rankings from both Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.
The Trump Foundation exists primarily on paper. It was started in 1987, when Trump sold The Art of the Deal. He initially contributed $5.4 million to it through 2006, but his last personal contribution was less than $10,000 in 2008.
- The most money it ever had was in 2009 – $3.2 million
- Currently has – $1.3 million
- The only staffers are the family (Donald, Donald Jr, Ivanka, Eric, & one Trump employee), who each work 1/2 hour per week
In the world of philanthropy, it is expected that your foundation is yours. Awards, business favors, and status come with it, and Trump has found a way to game the system with other people’s money.
Twice, Trump used Foundation money to buy gifts for himself. This is very illegal. Fahrenthold is still looking for these items and asking for the public’s help.
- $20,000 – 6 foot tall painting of himself
- $12,000 – Tim Tebow helmet
He has also used it for political purposes, which I have covered. In 2013, he paid Pam Bondi of Florida $25,000 as a campaign contribution at the same time her office declined to pursue charges against Trump University for fraud.
There are four additional specific monetary donations to charities the Foundation has listed the Post was told by the charitable organizations were not received:
- 2010 Children’s Medical Center – Omaha – $5,000
- 2012 Latino Commision on Aids – $10,000
- 2013 Friends of Veterans – $1,000
- 2008 Giving Back Fund – $10,000
The Trump campaign responded to the Post’s stories twice.
Monday afternoon, Pence stated on CNN that Trump has “given away tens of millions of dollars” to charities over the years. He was unable to back that up, however, except for citing the recent example of the $100,000 Trump gave the notorious hate preacher in Louisiana after the flood. That did come from Trump’s on pocket, although with all the media attention, he really didn’t have a chance to get out of it.
That was followed by a short statement. It did not seem to take issue with any specific detail in The Post’s story. The statement, in its entirety, read:
“Mr. Trump has donated tens of millions of dollars to charities both through his Foundation and otherwise. In addition, friends of Mr. Trump have generously donated to his Foundation. As President of the Foundation, Mr. Trump has directed his Foundation to donate those funds to many worthy causes. Mr. Trump serves the Foundation without compensation and additionally makes regular personal contributions to charities and causes of his choosing outside of the foundation. All in all, the Foundation supports many worthy causes, and the Foundation distributes its funds to get the money into the hands of those in need as soon as possible.”
In all, The Post has identified less than $9 million in gifts to charity from Trump’s pocket over his lifetime, including the $5.3 million he gave to his foundation before the last gift in 2008. In addition, Trump’s foundation has taken in about $9 million from other donors, and given away most of it.
All of this could be solved by Donald just releasing his tax returns. We would know for sure they were under audit if he would merely release the official letter from the IRS demanding it.
You can follow Blake Farenthold on Twitter to help or keep up with the latest on this developing story.
Expect more updates as well. There are a lot of outstanding questions.