Donald Trump is once again involved in a Foundation scandal of his own. There are already serious questions regarding his contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi before her office decided not to investigate Trump University in 2013. The Washington Post has looked further into his “charitable” Foundation. Among other issues, he used money from his Foundation to settle personal legal debts:
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.
Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses…
If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.
More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.
“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Washington Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”
“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in awhile,” Tenenbaum said.
The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases but received no response.
I can’t help but wonder how much more might be discovered if Trump were to release his tax returns, which before Trump had become the norm for politicians running for president.
I initially planned to end this post here, writing only about Trump. However, in looking at reactions elsewhere, I found many pro-Clinton blogs make similar arguments claiming that the only real Foundation scandal involves Trump, while totally ignoring, and denying, the more serious issues raised by the Clinton Foundation. While there is little question that Trump has acted unethically, and very likely illegally, the Clinton scandals are far more significant in terms of electoral politics as they involve the abuse of a government position.
I’ve already discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in great detail, including here and here. Common Cause has called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation. I’ve more recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failing to turn over any email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroying over half the email and falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed prior to her confirmation. She unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton.
Both Trump and Clinton have acted unethically. Neither is ethically fit for any government office. They are the same type of people, regardless of which letter is after their name. Is is a shame that partisan politics leads so many to look at the faults of one candidate while totally ignoring comparable faults from the candidate of their party. In order to clean up government, it is necessary to hold candidates of both major political parties to higher standards.