By Andrew Emett
March 22, 2016
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While Florida’s Attorney General was reviewing whether to investigate fraud allegations at Trump University, The Donald J. Trump Foundation illegally contributed $25,000 to a political committee supporting her reelection and failed to file the donation with the IRS. After the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) recently filed a complaint against the Trump Foundation, Trump’s campaign admitted to violating federal tax laws while placing the blame on a series of clerical errors.
On August 25, 2013, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Donald Trump, the Trump Entrepreneur Institute (formerly Trump University), and Trump University’s former president “for engaging in persistent fraudulent, illegal and deceptive conduct in connection with” the university’s operation. A few weeks later, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to prosecute Trump and his university for pulling a scam and ripping off students across several states.
Three days later, the Trump Foundation donated $25,000 to And Justice for All, a pro-Bondi group supporting her 2014 reelection. Not only did Bondi decide not to investigate Trump, she also endorsed him for president last week.
On Monday, CREW filed an IRS complaint against Trump Foundation for making an illegal political donation and failing to disclose the contribution to the IRS. Due to the fact that Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private foundation, it is prohibited from contributing to political organizations. After making the illegal donation, Trump Foundation falsely claimed it did not donate $25,000 to And Justice for All, a section 527 political organization, on its tax return.
“The rules are clear: a tax-exempt charitable foundation cannot support a political group,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder asserted. “The apparent failure to tell the IRS about this political activity makes matters worse and is something we’ve seen too many organizations doing lately.”
A March 30, 1998, Associated Press Release shed unexpected light on questionable ACS expenditures on lobbying. National vice president for federal and state governmental relations Linda Hay Crawford admitted that over the last year, the Society used ten of its own senior employees on direct lobbying. For legal and other help, it hired the lobbying firm of Hogan & Hartson, whose roster included former House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-IL). The lobbying also included $30,000 donations to Democratic and Republican governors' associations. "We wanted to look like players and be players," explained Crawford. This practice, however, had been sharply challenged. An Associated Press release quoted the national Charities Information Bureau as then stating, it "does not know of any other charity that makes contributions to political parties."
Not surprisingly, tax experts warned that these contributions could be illegal, as charities are not allowed to make political donations. Marcus Owens, director of the IRS Exempt Organization Division, also warned that, "The bottom line is campaign contributions will jeopardize a charity's tax exempt status." This warning still remains unheeded.
-- American Cancer Society: More Interested in Accumulating Wealth Than Saving Lives, by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
According to Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of the Trump Organization and the longtime treasurer of Trump’s foundation, a clerk mistakenly made the $25,000 political donation from Trump’s charity instead of his personal funds. Weisselberg accused the clerk of writing a check to another nonprofit with the same name in Utah, but the Utah-based And Justice for All told The Washington Post that they never received any money from Trump.
Weisselberg was unable to explain how the $25,000 ended up in the pro-Bondi group’s account.
“It must have gone, I guess, to Pam Bondi,” Weisselberg told The Washington Post. “We spoke to our accountants, our tax attorneys in Washington, and they say these things happen all the time.”
According to Weisselberg, Trump’s accounting firm mistakenly listed the $25,000 political donation to a Kansas-based nonprofit with the same name. A spokeswoman for the Kansas group, which trains antiabortion activists, recently confirmed that it had also not received the money.
Although Trump’s camp has confessed to making a series of mistakes, they refuse to admit that the presidential candidate illegally bribed a state attorney general capable of prosecuting him for fraud and purposely hid the $25,000 bribe from the IRS. Instead of arguing Trump’s innocence, his campaign is attempting to plead incompetence over corruption. Incapable of running a university or a charity without repeated violations of the law, Trump clearly does not possess the ability to run a country.
“The IRS needs to look into this,” Bookbinder asserted. “It is a serious problem if charitable foundations are used to influence politics.”