One of the first things that turned up when people started peeking into the Donald J. Trump Foundation is that Donald J. Trump hasn’t graced the gold-plated coffers of his “charity” with a dime of his own funds in years.
In truth, Donald J. Trump never contributed that much to the Donald J.Trump Foundation. ... During several years, he gave next to nothing.
Since 2008, Trump has given his foundation exactly that—nothing. He’s been happy to accept the awards, attend the banquets, and take the credit, but he’s not given one thin dime of his own money to the cause.
Instead, the Trump Foundation has relied on money coming in from everyone but Trump. In the last week, it’s become clear that not only was Trump using the foundation as a source of ready cash for his own purposes, he was having people who owed him money make payments to the foundation, possibly avoiding taxes and certainly further blurring the lines between Trump’s foundation and his business.
Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has received approximately $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his businesses but were instructed to pay Trump’s tax-exempt foundation instead, according to people familiar with the transactions.
But it appears there’s an even more fundamental problem with Trump's foundation.
Donald Trump’s charitable foundation — which has been sustained for years by donors outside the Trump family — has never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public, according to the state attorney general’s office.
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It’s already apparent that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is expanding his investigation into the Trump Foundation. The focus of that investigation? Self-dealing. That is, using the Donald Trump Foundation’s funds to pay for things that should have been covered by Donald Trump. It’s clear that Trump has treated his foundation as a spare wallet, reaching in to make political contributions, cover his legal bills, or just buy himself some really spiffy toys.
It’s also becoming clear that, by having people pay directly into the foundation when they owed Trump’s company, the foundation could be operating as a simple tax dodge, allowing Trump to both take in and pay out funds without ever having to account for them on his own taxes.
Now the latest issue is just another violation to heap on top of all the rest.
Under the laws in New York, where the Donald J. Trump Foundation is based, any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand. Charities as large as Trump’s must also submit to a rigorous annual audit that asks — among other things — whether the charity spent any money for the personal benefit of its officers.
But there is one very special point about this particular shattered law among all the wreckage created by the Trump Foundation. While penalties for the rest of the laws Trump has broken will likely be determined in court over a period of years, breaking this law has a real and immediate effect.
If New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) finds that Trump’s foundation raised money in violation of the law, he could order the charity to stop raising money immediately. With a court’s permission, Schneiderman could also force Trump to return money that his foundation has already raised.
And no, Donald, this time you can’t write that check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.