The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet
The Republican nominee’s charitable foundation made a large gift to a Florida politician right before she dropped a damaging investigation. But what else has the foundation done?David A. Graham, the Atlantic
Sep 7, 2016
As the old saying goes, those who give to glass foundations shouldn’t throw stones. Or something like that. In any case, after hitting Hillary Clinton hard over the Clinton Foundation, Donald Trump is under fresh scrutiny for his own foundation.
Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold has been reporting for months on the dearth of actual giving that Trump has done, despite repeated vows to donate to charity over the decades, but the story that’s broken through concerns a donation that Trump made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, in 2013. At the time, Bondi’s office was deciding whether or not to pursue a fraud case against Trump University and the Trump Institute. According to an aide, Bondi personally spoke with Trump, soliciting a donation to And Justice for All, a group backing her reelection. The Trump Foundation cut And Justice for All a $25,000 check, and four days Bondi dropped the investigation.
There are two questions at play here. One is the appearance of a quid-pro-quo. While Trump and Bondi say there was none, this is also precisely the mode Trump has described in the past. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in July 2015. “As a businessman, I need that.” He reprised those boasts early in the GOP primary, positioning himself as the only candidate honest enough to say how the game was played—and the only one rich enough to be exempt from it. Now, however, he’s singing a different tune.
Improper influence or not, the donation was illegal. The Trump Foundation, as a nonprofit, cannot give to political causes. Making things more complicated, the Trump Foundation recorded the incorrect recipient as the gift. Eventually, it had to pay a $2,500 penalty to the IRS. Even then, it has not recouped the money, as is required.
That’s not the end of the story. The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a complaint with the IRS, accusing the Trump Foundation of violating another rule by using charity to benefit a group’s leader. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post reports that Trump’s help for Bondi didn’t stop with that $25,000 donation. His family gave more to her, and he also hosted a fundraiser at his tony Mar-A-Lago in Florida—charging less than market rate, and less than he charged his own campaign to host events there.
The 2016 presidential election could be the most scandal-plagued match-up since James Blaine’s allegedly corrupt business deals squared off against Grover Cleveland’s alleged illegitimate child in 1884. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is poised to win the nomination, bringing with her a train-car’s worth of baggage. But the Republican front-runner is at least as saddled with controversy as Clinton is—and while many of the Clinton cases involve suspicion and shadowy links, many of Trump’s are fully documented in court cases and legal proceedings.