Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump believes that his “extraordinary success as a businessman” is what qualifies him to be the president of the United States. An important part of his false character narrative is a supposed history of philanthropy. As reported, Trump’s success as a businessman is suspect and his history of pledging money to charity, while well documented — never seems to actually materialize.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the $6 million Trump claimed to have raised in a January 2016 fundraiser for veterans groups never made it to his proposed recipients. The Post story resulted in Trump making the promised-but-heretofore-unfulfilled donation on that very day in May. The Huffington Post revealed that whereabouts of proceeds from recent sales of Trump’s books, which he promised to give to charity, are also suspicious. This long pattern of loudly promising to make donations and then never following through with them prompts the question “has Trump ever donated anything?”
An investigation by WaPo had this to say: “Trump promised millions to charity. We found less than $10,000 over 7 years. If Trump stands by his promises, such donations should be occurring all the time. In the past 15 years, Trump has promised to donate earnings from a wide variety of his money-making enterprises: “The Apprentice.” Trump Vodka. Trump University. A book. Another book. If he honored all those pledges, Trump’s gifts to charity would have topped $8.5 million. But in that time, public records show, Trump donated about $2.8 million — less than a third of the pledged figure — through a foundation set up to give his money away.”
What is more troubling is there is no evidence that Trump, personally, has given anything at all to his foundation of late: “The last record of any gift from him to his foundation was in 2008.” And while Trump’s people are “adamant that he has given away millions privately … Trump won’t release his tax returns, which would confirm such gifts… .” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks even told Buzzfeed: “There’s no way for you to know or understand.”
So the Post started digging up records going back more than 25 years. They found that Trump “has a long-standing habit of promising to give to charity. But Trump’s follow-through on those promises was middling…” Specifically, Trump had promised to give the royalties from his first book to AIDS and multiple sclerosis research, but he actually gave less to those causes than he did to his daughter’s ballet school.
According to the Post, Trump has given some $3.8 million to charity since 2001, a small fraction of the amount of charity similarly wealthy financial titans have pledged to their foundations. However, “what has set Trump apart from other wealthy philanthropists is not how much he gives — it is how often he promises that he is going to give.”
For example, Trump claims to have made nearly $1 million from the sale of his infamous book The Art of the Deal, proceeds from which he promised to donate to charity. But the funds went into his bank account. Let us not forget, he rented his New York estate to then-Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi in 2009 for a reported $150,000, which was to go to charity–but a few months ago he seems to have forgotten that promise, telling CBS that “I made a lot of money with Gaddafi, if you remember.”
Trump had claimed the defunct and now-infamous real estate seminar program Trump University was a charitable endeavor– even though it’s been reported that he pocketed $5 million before it closed down amid allegations of fraud. The endeavor is now facing multiple civil and criminal charges.
The bottom line, according to the Post, is Trump’s recent follow-through on promises appears to be entirely nonexistent. Contacting 167 charities searching for evidence of personal gifts from Trump between 2008 and last month, they found only one donation: “a 2009 gift of between $5,000 and $9,999 to the Police Athletic League of New York City.”
If you believe that what qualifies a person to be president is his/her business acumen and it’s corollary of philanthropic giving, Trump would seem be among the least qualified men to be president. Yet the Republicans would have you believe that the fecklessness and deceit of this man qualifies him to be president of the United States of America, and represent us on the world stage.