Pay to play? Donald J. Trump Foundation has 'dubious' and 'surprising' practices — report

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. © Mike Segar
A new analysis of the Donald J. Trump Foundation finds a pattern of inconsistency and some unusually sized donations, including donations to an NFL charity and Citizens United, a conservative non-profit organization.

Unlike the Clinton Foundation, which often receives a regular drubbing in the media, the Trump Foundation has been less scrutinized, except recently for an illegal contribution made to a Florida politician and for questionable expenditures. 

Based on an analysis of the Trump Foundation’s 2014 filing of the IRS’s mandatory 990 Form, however, there is more to be explored.

Former Rolling Stone editor Rob Tannenbaum tweeted at length on Thursday, detailing what stood out to him about the 990 Form, such as a $100,000 donation to the Citizens United Foundation.

Citizens United is a conservative non-profit organization best known for the 2010 US Supreme Court case on campaign finance, Citizens United v. FEC. The group was headed by David Bossie until 2016, when he took a leave of absence to become deputy campaign manager for the Trump presidential campaign.

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The case before the Supreme Court revolved around Citizens United wanting to its documentary, “Hillary: The Movie,” which was highly critical of the Democratic candidate. Under the McCain-Feingold law, corporations and unions are barred from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns. A federal court had barred the organization from advertising its film, and appeals sent the case to the Supreme Court, where the government argued it had the power under the Constitution to prohibit the publication of books and movies if they were made or sold by corporations.

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court overturned the provision of McCain-Feingold barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns.

The Trump Foundation gave also $10,000 to the New York Jets Foundation, a charity associated with NFL team owned by Woody Johnson, a prominent GOP fundraiser who has been raising money for Trump’s 2016 campaign. That move would violate IRS rules, according to Tannenbaum.

Further analysis found five board members listed were Donald Trump, Sr.; Donald Trump, Jr; Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Alan Weisselberg, who each spent 30 minutes per week on the foundation to distribute half-a-million in charitable donations.

From the 990 Form filed in 2013, it was discovered that Trump didn’t actually donate to his own foundation, but accepted gifts from others such as Richard Ebers, who donated $435,832. Ebers makes his money by selling entry to elite events to big-spending clients. The donation could be seen as a pay-to-play.

The investigations continue.