NY Attorney General Goes After Trump Foundation
The Donald J. Trump Foundation must halt all fundraising operations in New York, after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a cease and desist letter alleging violation of state charity registration rules.
The letter warns that the charity the Republican presidential nominee founded in the 80s has been collecting donations of over $25,000 annually, but has not filed the correct certification to do so, and therefore must cease fundraising immediately.
"The failure immediately to discontinue solicitation and to file information and reports required under Article 7-A with the Charities Bureau shall be deemed to be a continuing fraud upon the people of the state of New York," states the notice that was sent on Friday and which the attorney general's office shared online this week.
Trump has been aware of the issue since at least last month, when Schneiderman first began digging in to the foundation, after members of the press questioned the legalities themselves.
The Attorney General points out that the New York based charitable organization that was launched in 1988, "is in violation of section 172 of Article 7-A New York's Executive Law, which requires charitable organizations that solicit contributions in New York State to register with the Charities Bureau."
To rectify the matter Trump's group has been ordered to "provide annual financial reports and annual audited financial statements." The charity must "immediately cease soliciting contributions or engaging in other fundraising activities in New York," until such documentation has been provided.
Failure to respond to the instructions in the notice within 15 days will potentially lead to a number of legal ramifications, something Trump will not want circulating in the media during such an important time. Unsurprisingly the foundation has publicly expressed the intent to comply, but will not elaborate on why such a mistake was made and what their next move is.
"While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind AG Schneiderman's investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation," campaign press secretary Hope Hicks said in a statement. "Because this is an ongoing legal matter, the Trump Foundation will not comment further at this time."
In total the foundation has raised $4.4 million since 2009, though Trump has not funded it himself since 2008. Pro wrestling juggernaut WWE and NBC Universal have been the charity's biggest donors over the past year. Former WWE CEO Linda McMahon of course had an unsuccessful run for US senate and has included Trump on the wrestling show at numerous points over the years, including a "battle of the billionaires" with husband and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. Have their funds been misused, or perhaps used just as intended?
The investigation which was launched only a few weeks ago, suspected so called "impropriety" related to how the nonprofit was allocating its funding, not just a failure to file the correct paperwork. If true, one is essentially masking the other. As reported by the Washington Post at the time, it's alleged that a sum of $258,000 was illegally withdrawn from the charity to fund lawsuit's related to Trump's commercial business interests. This would be a bold violation of US tax law, and something a presidential candidate might have a tough time explaining away.
The irony is that Trump has pointed the finger at the Clinton Foundation on several occasions, calling it a "pay to play"operation that's agenda driven, not a true charitable organization. Perhaps the even bigger irony is that the Donald J. Trump Foundation itself donated $100,000 to Bill and Hillary's charity in 2009. So if it is a "pay to play" operation, he should know. He paid and played, and is probably doing the same himself.
Unfortunately this isn't the only tax related scandal brewing for Trump. Just this past Sunday it was reported by the New York Times that the presidential nominee may have avoided paying tax for almost twenty years!
The leaked tax documents reveal the Republican filed a Net Operating Loss of $916 million back in 1995 due to the failure of three Atlantic City casinos. This in theory could have allowed him to avoid paying any tax on federal income for up to 18 years legally. Of course critics will say legal doesn't mean ethical. But as we've learned in the wacky world of politics, don't be so quick to point fingers. Bill and Hillary Clinton's 2015 tax return used a similar loss carryover mechanism to get a $3,000 tax break, according to more leaked documents. Morally - both wrong perhaps, but there's a big difference in scale there.
In classic Trump fashion he simply downplayed and brushed aside the allegations, claiming the documents were illegally obtained and that it was pretty pathetic to dig up a 20 year old tax return that didn't even show anything illegal.
The charity registration faux pas however might just stick, as regulations do legitimately appear to have been violated. Democrat Schneiderman may have finally found something else that sticks after calling in to question numerous Trump operations in the past. He notoriously labelled the money making Trump University venture a "scam" and "a fraud from beginning to end."
The real estate training program that the attorney general sued for misleading marketing practices was forced to shut down. Does a similar fate await the Trump Foundation? The most likely outcome is that they quietly get the paperwork in order and chalk it up to more political mudslinging from a "partisan hack", but every negative headline has to have some impact on Trump's support.
Meanwhile Trump is already back in attack mode. He told a friendly crowd in Pueblo Colorado, that despite what is being reported "I'm working for you now, I'm not working for Trump."
He went on to say that Clinton has not "made an honest dollar in her life" and that she's involved in "corruption of the highest order."
But maybe one protests a bit too much. Donald Trump is still the only presidential nominee of the past 40 years to withhold all of his tax returns. Until he gets honest, how can we trust anything he says?