Donald Trump used more than a quarter of a million dollars of his charity’s funds to settle personal legal issues, a report published Tuesday by the Washington Post found. Tax law experts told the Post that the transactions appeared to be a violation of charity “self-dealing” prohibitions.
Monday’s report comes on the heels of another Washington Post story earlier this month revealing that in recent years the coffers of the Trump Foundation have been largely filled by other people’s contributions, yet Trump often took credit for donations the charity made.
The Washington Post reviewed a number of legal cases involving either Trump or his businesses in which a total of $258,000 of Trump Foundation money was used to settle disputes. Often, Trump would promise to make a charitable donation in order to resolve the legal issue at hand, but then would write a Trump Foundation check — even though he or one of his businesses was a party in the lawsuit.
In one case in 2006, the town of Palm Beach levied $120,000 in fines for a 80-foot American flag pole on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, which violated local regulations limiting flag poles to 42 feet. Trump took the town to court, only to settle the issue by donating to a charity of Palm Beach’s choice. Palm Beach chose Fisher House and Trump bragged in a letter to the town that he had given $100,000 to the charity, as well as another $25,000 to a veterans’ group. The copies of the checks, signed by Trump, provided to the town showed that the contributions actually came from the Trump Foundation, rather than from Trump himself.
“I don’t know that there was any attention paid to that at the time. We just saw two checks signed by Donald J. Trump,” John Randolph, the Palm Beach town attorney, told the Post. “I’m sure we were satisfied with it.”
According to Washington Post, if Trump was found in violation of IRS charity rules, he could face penalty taxes.
“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who a charity advisor at Venable law firm in Washington, told the Post.
The Trump campaign did not respond to the Post’s detailed questions about the cases it uncovered.