Donald Trump famously said in January that his supporters were so loyal, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” It’s amazing that Trump was able to exhibit his low view of his supporters, and not lose ground in the polls. Still, I wonder how his die-hard faithful will feel as they learn more about how Trump used the ostensibly charitable Donald J. Trump Foundation to launder purchases of high-ticket items the billionaire coveted and to settle legal issues for his luxury ventures. When charity heads use tax-exempt dollars for own personal ends, attorneys call it “self-dealing.” It’s against the law.
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has done amazing reportage on the Trump Foundation. Fahrenthold’s stories belie the image that Trump carefully polished of himself as a big-shot benefactor, always ready to write a check for a good cause. It turns out that while Trump gave his charity $5.4 million from 1987 to 2006 — kudos for that — Mr. Big Spender hasn’t given a dime to his namesake charity since 2008. Instead, other business people have contributed to the Trump Foundation — while Trump took credit for their generosity.
Why would anyone give money to the Trump Foundation so that Trump could give it away and take the credit? My favorite answer came from carpet company executive John Stark, who donated $64,000. “No. No. No. I’m not going to comment on anything. I’m not answering any of your questions,” Stark told the Washington Post. Another donor responded, “I don’t have time for this.” With those brush-offs, you’d think the donors were involved in money laundering, not charitable giving.
In January Trump hosted a fundraiser for veterans’ causes that raised $6 million, including $1 million The Donald personally pledged. It wasn’t until May, in the heat of media questions, that Trump donated the $1 million to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Association, which helps the families of fallen Marines and federal officers. Team Trump explained it took time to vet worthy recipients. But Trump has a history of saying he has given to charities that say he did not.
The Trump Foundation paid $20,000 for a 6-foot tall portrait of who-else and $12,000 for a football helmet autographed by Tim Tebow. That is OK if the purchases went to a charitable cause, but the Post reports the portrait was hung in a Trump golf resort and the helmet’s whereabouts are unknown. So you have to wonder why a charity that is supposed to support worthy causes — that’s why contributions are tax deductible — is used to pad the lush lifestyle of a man who has everything. If Trump is as loaded as he claims, why can’t he pay for his own toys?
The Trump Foundation twice gave money to other charities as part of settlements to resolve a $120,000 fine from Palm Beach and a $158,000 claim against a Trump golf course. Trump campaign guru Kellyanne Conway told CNN that charities benefited from the deals, so it’s all good. But those charities would have benefited just as much if Trump’s businesses had ponied up.
Forget the crazy sound bites that have become a staple of cable news. The real story of any man is not what he says, but what he does. Take a close look at the White House wannabe who flies around in his private plane as if he’s Richie Rich, who all along has a hand out. He tries to distract with the flash of his bling, but morally he is a pauper.
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