It is unethical for charitable foundations to serve as tax-free conduits to personally benefit one of its officers. It’s also illegal. The Donald J. Trump Foundation can certainly give a grant to a cause that Trump himself approves of and supports. If, however, that otherwise legitimate cause is an organization that employs his mistress (just hypothesizing here), or one that is chaired by a major contributor to his campaign in what looks like a quid pro-quo deal, or is a cause favored by a Senator who then votes for a bill favored by President Trump, these are all unethical abuses of a charitable foundation’s integrity. They are also common abuses that personal foundations regularly engage in and get away with. Another unethical use of charitable funds is to allow the foundation employ relatives and friends of foundation leaders at high salaries. Again, this is business as usual for many foundations, and is, while unethical, very difficult to stop.
If, however, a foundation that has tax exempt status uses funds that by law must only be used for charitable activities in ways that directly profit an individual connected to the foundation’s management, that’s a version of money laundering and a fraudulent use of charitable grants. There are no nuances there, none of the spin, legalisms and rationalizations used by the Clintons to justify their foundation’s unethical machinations. It’s just plain, unvarnished, unethical, illegal abuse.
That’s what Donald Trump has used his foundation for:
- In 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club had to pay $120,000 fines from the town of Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines, and avoid litigation challenging their validity, if Trump would make a $100,000 donation to a charity for veterans. Instead of making the contribution with his own money, or the club’s money, Trump had his foundation make the contribution (above), which was primarily composed of tax-deductible gifts to his foundation from others. Trump’s business’s fine was essentially paid by the foundation, and the beneficiary was Trump.
- One of Trump’s golf courses settled a lawsuit by making a $158,000 donation to the plaintiff’s favorite charity. Again, the Trump Foundation, gave the money, according to tax records.
- In 2013, Trump directed the Trump Foundation to pay $5,000 for advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for fundraising three events organized by a D.C. preservation group.
Finally, In 2014, Trump’s foundation paid $10,000 at charity fundraiser for a portrait of himself.
Of these, only the last one is ambiguous, though it is the most repulsive. It doesn’t really matter if the Foundation paid for a picture of Trump or Mickey Mouse, if it the purchase constituted a legitimate gift to a legitimate charity. (No portrait of Trump is worth $10,000. Velvet Elvises are more artful.) Naturally, this is the incident that has received the most publicity, since the news media has no interest in enlightening the public, just pushing their buttons. It is more “ick” than unethical: does Trump personally benefit from another portrait of himself?
Still, taken as a whole, these are examples of a man ham-handedly ignoring the law and using his Foundation to pay for his own needs, not those in need, and not being very clever about it, either. Hillary and Bill could give him some lessons on how to run a corrupt foundation and get away with it, or at least give a media cheering-section something to spin with.
The slimy Trump Foundation abuses encapsulate what has become the go-to argument for those who try to argue that Trump is still a better risk than Hillary: she is likely to get away with her outrages, and he isn’t. Another way of putting it is that she’s smarter than he is.
Has there ever been a more desperate rationalization to vote for a presidential candidate? I can’t imagine what it would be.
Source: Washington Post