Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.But Trump's backers will shrug it off. Why? Because of this, for starters:
Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” -- which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.A dispute over the size of a flagpole? Try recounting this to your Fox-obsessed uncle, and I guarantee that that's the detail he'll seize on. The damn government shouldn't be telling people what size flagpole they're allowed to have!
In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines -- if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.
The larger issue, of course, is that if this is a charitable foundation, certain laws apply regarding the tax status of donations, and there are restrictions on the outlays. Sensible people can understand that, and realize that it's not right to take money earmarked for charity and use it for other purposes. But to your Fox-watching uncle, all taxation is theft. Therefore it shouldn't matter what Trump does with his charity's money (even if it's money given to the foundation by other people, as Farenthold makes clear it is). It was given to him, it's his damn money, and he should be able to do with it what he pleases. Is this America or commie Russia?
If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf.The IRS? See "taxation is theft," above. Also recall that conservatives want IRS commissioner John Koskinen impeached, though congressional leaders in the GOP think that would be awkward at this time.
Conservatives say Koskinen impeded a congressional investigation when subpoenaed documents related to the IRS-tea party controversy were destroyed on his watch. Koskinen says he had nothing to do with lower-level employees erasing backup tapes of emails written by Lois Lerner, the IRS official who led the department that singled out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.Yes, conservatives think the actions of the Clinton Foundation are evil and criminal. But they'll tell you this is totally different.
Let me try to explain why. Since the Reagan years, conservatives have worshipped capitalism and business titans. But in the past decade or so, conservatives, or at least some of them, have started to denounce "crony capitalism." But to conservatives,these aren't contradictory. Business leaders are still Randian demigods -- except when they collude with leaders of the government, which is a force of pure evil. When business leaders engage in that sort of collusion (with Establishment Republicans, or with any Democrat), that's "cronyism." That, according to conservatives, is what the Clinton Foundation engages in.
The Trump Foundation? It's just the charitable wing of a free man trying to live freely, as Saint Ayn would want him to.
Yes, maybe his foundation's money isn't really his money, as Farenthold says:
... he transformed the Trump Foundation into something rarely seen in the world of philanthropy: a name-branded foundation, whose namesake provides none of its money. Trump gave relatively small donations in 2007 and 2008, and afterward: nothing. The foundation’s tax records show no donations from Trump since 2009.Still, it was given to him freely, so it's his cash, and should be allowed to do whatever he pleases with it. Even buy huge portraits of himself:
Its money has come from other donors, most notably pro-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon, who gave a total of $5 million from 2007 to 2009, tax records show.
... in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.
Or, rather, another portrait of himself.
Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.