In another revelation of how Donald Trump may have violated self-dealing rules for private foundations, evidence has come to light that Trump used funds gathered from outside donors to the Donald J. Trump Foundation to curry favor with conservative foundations and pave the way for his presidential run. Self-dealing rules bar a foundation’s leadership from using donor money for its own aggrandizement.
Trump stopped donating to the foundation that bears his name in 2008, as CNN reported. Real Clear Politics (RCP) reports that between 2011-2014, “Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups … In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.” RCP delineates numerous examples of Trump ingratiating himself with powerful conservative organization by donating money gained from outside donors, including:
- 2011: Trump sent a check for $10,000 from the Trump Foundation to the Palmetto Family Council.
- April 2011: the Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, started to publicly espouse the idea of a Trump presidential bid. In 2012, Trump’s foundation sent $100,000 to Graham’s association.
- 2013: A donation of $10,000 was made to The Family Leader, a 501(c)(4) established to “develop, advocate and support legislative agenda at the state level.” 501(c)(4) organizations are permitted to be involved with policy and political activity and the rules for receiving funds are more strict than 501(c)(3)s. In 2013, The Family Leader featured Trump as a marquee speaker for the first time at its leadership summit.
- 2013: Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The same year, he donated $50,000 to the American Conservative Union Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the group that organizes CPAC and organizes its program. One source told RCP, “Everyone’s too smart to say, ‘Donate and we’ll let you speak. It was kind of understood.”
- 2014: Trump’s foundation donated $100,000 to the Citizens United Foundation. April 2014: When Citizens United hosted a “cattle call” of prospective GOP presidential candidates, Trump was included, again in January 2015 at Citizens United’s Freedom Summit in Iowa, and again at Citizen’s United South Carolina summit in May 2015.
- $6,000 was donated by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., likely before Trump spoke there.
“In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.”
Real Clear Politics
As The Washington Post reported two weeks ago, Trump may have violated laws against self-dealing by using his foundation’s funds for personal purposes such as paying fines or buying gifts.