NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s charitable foundation made no donations last year, a sharp break from the 2016 election year when it gave away millions of dollars and drew a lawsuit alleging the charity was acting as a quasi-political group.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation took in no new money from outside groups last year and donated nothing, according to a 2017 tax return posted online Monday. Trump had promised before taking office to dissolve the foundation to avoid conflicts of interest with his duties as president.
The foundation gave away $3.1 million in 2016, more than it did in the prior three years combined. Much of the money donated that election year went to veterans’ groups.
Trump and other directors of his foundation are being sued by New York’s Attorney General for allegedly using its money to settle business disputes, help with his presidential campaign and pay for personal items. The suit argues that the foundation should be dissolved only under court supervision.
The suit seeks $2.8 million in restitution plus penalties, the foundation’s disbandment and a 10-year ban on Trump running any charities.
Trump’s lawyer has said the suit is politically motivated and should be dismissed. But a New York judge ruled Friday that it should go forward because there is no basis for finding “animus and bias were the sole motivating factors” for the litigation.
In 2016, the foundation took in more than $2 million from several groups and individuals, including $1 million from Phil Ruffin, Trump’s business partner in a Las Vegas tower bearing the president’s name.
By contrast, the foundation last year raised money from only one source, the Trump Corporation, according to tax returns posted Monday by the nonprofit monitoring website GuideStar. The president’s company donated $502,400.
Trump drew criticism during the campaign after news organizations raised questions about his foundation’s use of funds and reported that he often did not follow through on promised donations. The Washington Post reported that records showed Trump made $8.5 million in pledges to charitable groups in the 15 years before his campaign but paid out only about $2.8 million.
The New York attorney general’s suit alleges the foundation was tapped for $258,000 to help settle lawsuits involving the president’s properties in Florida and New York and to pay for a 6-foot (1.8-meter) painting of Trump. The suit also alleges that the foundation coordinated with Trump’s campaign staff to make big donations on the eve of the 2016 Iowa caucuses — Trump presented giant checks at political rallies there — to help boost his political fortunes.
Charities are prohibited by law from giving money to political campaigns.
Trump has called the suit “ridiculous,” and has tweeted, “I won’t settle this case!”
Trump’s lawyer Alan Futerfas has said that donations went to people “most in need” and that he is confident the president will prevail in court.