September 7, 2016
Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation appear to have broken the law by giving $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in an effort to discourage her office from investigating Trump University, thus using the Foundation for Trump’s personal benefit, according to an IRS complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The complaint calls for an investigation into the Foundation for violating the tax code by providing a private benefit to Trump and his business interests and falsely representing its political giving on its tax returns. The complaint further calls for an investigation into Trump for engaging in prohibited self-dealing.
A private foundation cannot operate for the benefit of its founders or board, or businesses they own or manage. Likewise, it is illegal self-dealing when an officer or director of a private foundation uses the foundation for their own benefit. As the founder of the Foundation, Trump unquestionably cannot benefit from its actions. The Foundation’s contribution to the Bondi-backing group appears to be an attempt to benefit Trump and the Trump-owned Trump University by influencing the Attorney General’s decision on a lawsuit against Trump University.
Trump has previously bragged about his history of making donations to politicians in order to benefit his businesses, claiming, “When I want something, I get it,” and, “When I call, they kiss my ass.”
“Private foundations exist for the public good, that’s why they’re tax-exempt,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “They absolutely cannot be used to attempt to quash an investigation into their founder’s business.”
CREW originally filed a complaint against the Trump Foundation in March after first noticing the donation, as foundations are prohibited from giving to political organizations. The Foundation claimed on its tax returns that it engaged in no political activity and listed a different, permissible group as receiving the contribution. Despite Trump’s spokeswoman claiming, “all is squared away” with the IRS because Trump or the Foundation paid a penalty, we checked, and the Foundation still has not corrected the false information on its tax return, nor did the penalty address the false statements on tax returns or the new allegations raised in today’s complaint.
“The Trump Foundation’s handling of this illegal political contribution reads like a checklist of tax violations,” Bookbinder said. “The IRS must investigate.”
In addition to the previous IRS complaint against the Trump Foundation, CREW has also filed an IRS complaint against the Foundation for illegally being used to benefit Trump’s campaign, as well as complaints with the Inspector General for Florida’s Office of the Attorney General and the state’s Commission on Ethics against Bondi for her role in this matter.
Click HERE to read a timeline and overview of Trump and Bondi’s relationship.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.