On Thursday, the New York Attorney General’s office unveiled a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation, President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump. Their accusation: the Trump campaign used the Trump Foundation as a goody bag for various political purposes. According to the New York Attorney General:
501(c)3 charitable foundations may not coordinate with political campaigns, or be used for self-dealing. The court filing alleges that “For more than a decade, the Donald J. Trump Foundation has operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities…the Investigation revealed that the Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments to not-for-profits from Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization.” The AG’s office claims that “Mr. Trump ran the Foundation according to his whim, rather than the law.”
The investigation into the Trump Foundation was launched in the middle of the campaign — in June 2016. What caused the investigation to be launched? In January, Trump decided to skip a Fox News Channel presidential debate after he took offense to a line of questioning by Megyn Kelly. Instead, he counterprogrammed the debate with a charity fundraiser for the veterans. The AG’s office claims that the event wasn’t designed to raise money for charity, but to benefit Trump politically — it was a “Trump Campaign event in which the Foundation participated.” The event was planned by the campaign with administrative assistance from the Foundation. The real problem began when the “foundation ceded control over the charitable funds it raised to senior Trump Campaign staff, who dictated the manner in which the Foundation would disburse those proceeds, directing the timing, amounts and recipients of the grants.” Trump used checks for photo ops with his presidential campaign slogan on the checks, for example.
Trump also allegedly used the Foundation to pay off personal expenses:
Undoubtedly, the Left will claim that this shows Trump is corrupt beyond all measure. In response, the Right will point out that money went to veterans — so what’s the big deal? Furthermore, the right will claim in response that the Clinton Foundation never faced this kind of legal scrutiny from the New York Attorney General’s office. In point of fact, too many charities operate without strict guidelines, and at the behest of political actors; the Trump Foundation isn’t alone, even if these allegations are true. There is something that feels targeted about this investigation, given the lack of corresponding investigations against prominent left-wing charities in New York. With that said, lawbreaking is lawbreaking, and if the situation were reversed — if these same allegations were made about the Clinton Foundation —the Right would undoubtedly be highly critical.