Trump Foundation Forced to Stop Soliciting Donations in New York
The New York Attorney General's Office ordered the Donald J. Trump Foundation to immediately stop soliciting donations in the state last week after it determined the charity was not registered in accordance to state law.
The foundation has until Oct. 15 to comply and submit necessary paperwork for 2016 and any other years it was noncompliant, according to the letter from the Office of the Attorney General, dated Sept. 30. If the foundation were to continue soliciting donations, it would be "a continuing fraud," James G. Sheehan, chief of the Attorney General's Charities Bureau, said in the letter.
"Please take notice that the Donald J. Trump Foundation is in violation of section 172 of article 7-A [of] New York's Executive Law, which requires charitable organizations that solicit contributions in New York state to register with the Charities Bureau and to provide annual financial reports and annual audited financial statements," Sheehan said.
Trump's camp questioned the political motivation behind the move, but agreed to comply.
"While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind [Attorney General] Schneiderman’s investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation," Hope Hicks, Trump's campaign spokeswoman, said. "Because this is an ongoing legal matter, the Trump Foundation will not comment further at this time.”
The Washington Post reported that New York requires charities that solicit more than $25,000 annually to register prior to requesting donations. From the foundation's beginning in 1987 through 2006, Trump was the sole funder, but once he started soliciting donations, he should have registered through the state. Large charities, like Trump's, also must submit annual audits that make requests, such as whether the charity spent any money for personal benefit of its officers.
The office has been investigating the foundation since June, according to CNN.
"We've inquired into it," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told CNN last month. "We've had correspondence with them. I didn't make a big deal out of it or hold a press conference. But we have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it's complying with the laws governing charities in New York."
Since that story, a lot of scandals have been uncovered about the foundation. Trump has been accused of spending $258,000 of his foundation's money to settle legal problems with his business, according to The Washington Post. A 2007 lawsuit claimed Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club owed the town of Palm Beach, Fla., $120,000 in unpaid fines, stemming from a dispute over the permitted height of a flagpole. The town agreed to waive those fines if the club donated $100,000 to a specific veterans charity. Instead, that money came from the Trump Foundation. A similar settlement happened with a Trump golf course in New York. That $158,000 donation also came from the Trump Foundation.
Trump also used foundation money for questionable purchases. He reportedly used $5,000 for advertisements touting his businesses in 2013. He purchased a $10,000 portrait of himself with foundation money at a charity auction in 2014. To avoid violating IRS "self-dealing," he is required to find a charitable use for it, but it's currently hanging at a Trump-owned resort in Florida (An adviser told The Washington Post that Trump was doing his foundation a favor by "storing" the painting on the wall of a bar inside his resort). A similar purchase of a 6-foot tall portrait of himself is believed to be hanging in a New York Trump-owned golf course while the location of a $12,000 Tim Tebow-signed football helmet is unknown, but Trump paid for both of these items with foundation money as well.
"If he’s using other people’s money—run through his foundation—to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in awhile,” Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at Venable, a law firm in Washington, D.C., told The Washington Post.
And just today NBC News reported that the Trump Foundation wrote checks to conservative nonprofits prior to running for the Republican nominee. Tax filings show he gave more than $321,000 to these groups that included Iowa's Family Leader, South Carolina Palmetto Family Council, the American Conservatives Union and Citizens United.
NBC News wrote:
Together, the donations paint a picture of the wealthy businessman using charity-earmarked money to build relationships with conservative activists in early-voting states. There are laws prohibiting self-dealing that would bar these kinds of donations if they were solely for Trump's personal benefit, but there's nothing stopping Trump from donating to these groups as a charitable act—even if it does grease the wheels of his presidential bid along the way.