The Donald J. Trump Foundation just got busted yet again because the ambitious billionaire illegally used $268,000 to pay off conservative political groups and charities in order to obtain coveted speaking slots at CPAC and in Iowa, the key early primary state, and from Citizens United, the same group whose legal fight opened the taps to dark money overwhelming American politics.
In a very real way, this means that Donald Trump is the candidate launched by Citizens United. Also, “in 2014, Trump’s foundation donated $100,000 to the Citizens United Foundation,” according to Real Clear Politics, “by far its single largest donation to any group that year.”
Donald Trump’s greatest early political exposure might have come from Citizens United, a conservative political group whose president, David Bossie, met with Trump in 2011 about a potential presidential bid and remained a close ally. More recently, Bossie took leave from his group last month to join Trump’s campaign as deputy campaign manager. In April 2014, when Citizens United hosted a “cattle call” of would-be Republican candidates for president in New Hampshire, Trump was there. In January 2015, at Citizens United’s Freedom Summit in Iowa, Trump was again on the program. And at the group’s South Carolina summit in May 2015, Trump also took to the stage. The high-profile events were held in three key battleground states. And it was no fluke: Bossie had insisted Trump be included in one of the group’s events “because he was a good friend to Citizens United,” said a source with knowledge of the discussions.
Trump had to buy his way in, because nobody cared what the trust fund baby had to say until he illegally greased them with $268,000 in cold hard cash from his slush fund in a violation of IRS rules prohibiting self-dealing and political expenditures.
Ironically, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has taken flack for getting paid large sums for public speaking appearances, while Republican nominee Donald Trump is illegally paying money from his purported charity directly to conservative political and religious groups, for the privilege of speaking which he used to launch his primary campaign.
These new allegations were just revealed by Real Clear Politics, whose investigation turned up, “potential conflict echoes other improper donations and practices by the Donald J. Trump Foundation” and uncovered yet another illegal political pay for play moment by the Republican nominee:
But RCP’s review of IRS filings by the Trump foundation turned up a fresh conflict: a 2013 donation of $10,000 to The Family Leader, a 501(c)(4) established to “develop, advocate and support legislative agenda at the state level.” Unlike a 501(c)(3), or a nonprofit organization, a 501(c)(4) can effect policy and engage in limited political activity, and thus is subject to greater restrictions on contributions from charities. If the Trump foundation sent its money to The Family Leader and not its affiliated nonprofit, it did not properly note it in the filing and might have failed to earmark the money for charitable purposes, a violation of IRS rules. If the money was sent to the Family Leader Foundation, it was not recorded as such.
In the same year that Trump’s foundation made that $10,000 contribution, The Family Leader featured Trump as a marquee speaker for the first time at its influential leadership summit in Iowa.
The announcement raised eyebrows: Craig Robinson, editor of the Iowa Republican blog, wrote that Trump was “an odd fit for a social conservative confab,” while the Family Leader was roundly criticized by other Iowa conservatives for including Trump in the program. But Bob Vander Plaats, the group’s president and CEO, nevertheless heaped praise on Trump — telling RCP at the time that Trump “sure would be” a serious presidential candidate in 2016 if he were to run.
Multiple investigations have turned up instances of Trump using his personal charity as a “slush fund” whose money is used for the self-benefit of the billionaire as its board member. Certainly, anyone who reads about his illegal political bribe to Florida AG Pam Bondi, his purchase of self-portraits and Tim Tebow signed gear can only assume that this is how the Republican nominee does in fact run his businesses.
In fact, this seems to be standard practice by the Republican nominee, who told ABC News once that building hotels was a “sacrifice” on national television and now we see what he meant when he said that the entire GOP had their hands out:
From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation’s tax filings found. 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. Although sources familiar with the thinking behind the donations cautioned that Trump did not explicitly ask for favors in return for the money, they said the contributions were part of a deliberate effort by Trump to ingratiate himself with influential conservatives and brighten his political prospects. “He was politically active starting in 2011,” said one source with ties to Trump, and at that point he “started to make strategic donations.”
The donations to groups that granted Trump plum speaking slots or otherwise promoted his political aspirations also might run afoul of self-dealing rules for private foundations, which prohibit a foundation’s leadership from using donor money for its own gain. “Getting the right to speak or access to networking events, that’s definitely starting to push into self-dealing, where you’re using the private foundation assets to benefit Mr. Trump,” said Rosemary Fei, a partner at the Adler & Colvin law firm in San Francisco, where she specializes in charity law.
Even the Reverend Franklin Graham got into the act, taking $100,000 from the New York businessman who he said at the time to ABC News, “When I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, ‘Well, this has got to be a joke,’” but that wasn’t the coup de grace. The Conservative Political Action Conference is the top annual political conference for Republicans and Trump used $50,000 from his Foundation to donate to its organizer in yet another political pay for play deal.
That same year, Trump used his foundation to donate $50,000 to the American Conservative Union Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the group that organizes CPAC and sets its program. He did not ask for a speaking slot in return, but he did not need to. “Everyone’s too smart to say, ‘Donate and we’ll let you speak,’” said one source familiar with the donation. “It was kind of understood.”
Even his very first speech declaring in 2014 intent to seek the presidency was yet another Donald Trump pay for play deal:
Trump has maintained that his speaking invitations prior to his candidacy for president were a reflection of his popularity. At an event at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C, in December 2014, Trump thanked the club’s president, David Rubenstein, for inviting him to attend. “David called and he said, ‘Would you do this?’” Trump said. “When David calls, I say yes.”
It’s unclear when the check for $6,000 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation arrived for the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. But Trump gave his remarks Dec. 15 — and the donation appears on the foundation’s 2014 filing, suggesting it was written prior to the event or in the two weeks following it.
This means that Donald Trump’s entire political career is based upon a lie. He began by lying to Miami’s Cuban Republican community in 1999 about doing business with Castro (he was, but claimed the opposite). Today’s report uncovers how cheaply it is to buy off Republicans, conservatives and “values voters” religious groups.
The Republican has already paid one IRS fine for his foundation’s bribery scam related to the Trump University, which is hurtling towards a federal class action racketeering and fraud trial in November just after the election. Just yesterday, the Trump Foundation’s fundraising was shut down by the New York Attorney General and the Republican nominee given just 15 days to comply with a series of missing audits dating back to 2008.
It will not be long until the New York Attorney general and IRS levy new fines and file new actions against the Republican nominee before this year’s election on November 8th.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition