November 4, 2016 — In March 2016, CREW discovered that the Trump Foundation had broken the law by giving an illegal $25,000 contribution to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Charitable foundations like the Trump Foundation are not allowed to engage in politics. Even more problematic was the fact that the contribution was given as Bondi’s office was deciding whether to take legal action related to Trump University. This would set off an investigation which would lead to one of the biggest stories of the year. Here’s how it went down:
Feb. 2008-May 2011: The Florida Office of the Attorney General (OAG) receives at least 22 complaints regarding Trump University, the Trump Institute, and related entities.
Aug. 2013: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman files lawsuit against Donald Trump, The Trump Entrepreneur Institute aka Trump University and the former president of Trump University for “engaging in persistent fraudulent, illegal and deceptive conduct.”
Sept. 13, 2013: The Orlando Sentinel reports that OAG told them, “We are currently reviewing the allegations” in the NY lawsuit. A few days later, OAG tells thePalm Beach Post the same thing.
Sept. 17, 2013: The Donald J. Trump Foundation makes a $25,000 contribution to And Justice for All, a political group backing Bondi. The donation, illegal for a 501(c)(3) private foundation to give, was personally solicited by Bondi from Trump.
Oct. 15, 2013: According to documents turned over in response to a CREW public records request, OAG told reporters that “there was no consideration of whether to join [the New York lawsuit]. In light of the fact that the Attorney General’s Office received only one consumer complaint 2.5 years ago, there is no investigation at this time.”
Oct. 17, 2013: The Tampa Bay Times reports that And Justice for All acknowledged receiving the contribution from the Trump Foundation.
Oct. 17-18, 2013: Despite previously acknowledging the 22 complaints (sometimes 23 due to a duplicate record) to reporters, internal emails show OAG employees weeded out any complaint about Trump Institute and related entities to claim there was only one complaint against Trump University.
2014: In its 2013 taxes, the Trump Foundation claims it made no donations to political entities and replaces And Justice for All with a different, similarly named group in Kansas to which they would legally be allowed to donate.
March 21, 2016: CREW files its first IRS complaint against the Trump Foundation for making the illegal political donation.
March 22, 2016: Trump representatives admit to the illegal donation, blaming an increasing series of clerical errors.
May 17, 2016: CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder writes an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times summarizing some of the troubling findings in the Trump Foundation’s 990 forms.
June 6, 2016: Bondi’s spokesman tells the AP that the Attorney General was unaware of the 20+ complaints against Trump entities when she solicited the donation.
June 7, 2016: Bondi tells the Tampa Bay Times “I never, nor was my office, investigating him. Never. I would never lie. I would never take money. I’ve been obviously devastated over this.”
July 6, 2016: CREW files complaints against Bondi with the Inspector General for Florida’s Office of the Attorney General and the state’s Commission on Ethics for potentially violating the law by failing to investigate or take legal action regarding complaints against Trump University and related entities after an affiliated political organization received a contribution from the Trump Foundation.
August 8, 2016: CREW files an IRS complaint against the Trump Foundation for acting as a prop for the Trump campaign through its engagement in Trump Campaign events, including payments to groups that came to campaign rallies.
September 1, 2016: Following CREW’s discovery that the Trump Foundation did not file an updated 990 tax form, the Washington Post discovered a $2,500 IRS penalty paid by the Foundation for the illegal donation, kicking off one of the biggest stories of the year.
September 7, 2016: CREW files a second IRS complaint against Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation for the donation supporting Bondi. The complaint called for an investigation into whether the donation was used to provide a private benefit to Trump and his business interests by attempting to discourage Bondi and her office from investigating Trump University. The complaint also calls for an investigation into Trump for engaging in prohibited self-dealing.
September 13, 2016: CREW files criminal bribery complaints against Trump and Bondi with the Department of Justice and calls for a criminal investigation into whether the Trump Foundation broke federal criminal law by making numerous false reports to the IRS on its tax forms. CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder lays out the alleged corruption in the Hill.
September 14, 2016: CREW files a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the New York Attorney General for Trump Foundation tax documents, as well as documents relating to the New York Attorney General’s investigation of the Trump Foundation.
September 21, 2016: CREW files its third IRS complaint against Donald Trump after it appears that he repeatedly broke the law by using the Trump Foundation for his personal benefit, calling for an investigation into multiple acts of self-dealing by Trump and into the Foundation for violating the tax code by making multiple payments and grants for the private benefit of Trump and his business interests.
October 2, 2016: Executive Director Bookbinder writes a column for The Hill explaining Trump-Bondi campaign finance corruption findings.
October 19, 2016: The NY AG office responds to CREW’s FOIL request, and CREW discovers that not only did the Foundation’s attempts to address its tax issues stemming from the Bondi donation contain serious errors, they also presented materials to the Attorney General that raise significant questions about how they operate and the veracity of their previous claims.
UPDATE: On December 24, 2016, Trump announced he will shut down the Trump Foundation in the light of the growing scandal. CREW released a statement in response to the announcement.