The Slatest

The Trump Foundation Can’t Even Legally Solicit Donations!

Donald Trump speaks to veterans at Drake University on Jan. 28 in Des Moines, Iowa. Trump held his alternative event to benefit veterans after withdrawing from the televised Fox News debate, which aired at the same time.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Donald J. Trump Foundation is looking less and less like a poorly run charity and more and more like one giant intentional scam. The newest revelation about the GOP nominee’s suspect nonprofit comes by way of the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, and it’s a doozy: The Trump Foundation doesn’t actually have the certification that New York requires for a charity to solicit money from the public:

Under the laws in New York, where the Donald J. Trump Foundation is based, any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand. … Tax filings show that in each of the past 10 years for which there are records, the Trump Foundation raised more than $25,000 from outsiders. Tax records alone do not reveal whether the donations amounted to solicitations under New York law, but in several cases there is strong evidence that they did.

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Among those cases: the roughly $1.7 million the foundation claims it raised online in conjunction with the veterans fundraiser Trump staged earlier this year as counterprogramming to the GOP primary debate he skipped, and the $400,000 Comedy Central gave to the foundation at Trump’s request as compensation for his appearance on a televised roast back in 2011.

The lack of certificate, which was confirmed by the New York AG’s office, isn’t some inconsequential paperwork mistake either. A charity that solicits more than $25K a year is required by New York law to have the certificate and, as a result, may undergo annual audits from independent accountants. Without the certificate (and audit), Trump’s foundation was able to operate with far less oversight. If the Trump Foundation is found to have violated the law, the New York attorney general could order it to stop raising money and, with a court’s permission, even force it to return any money it raised illegally.

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According to the charity-tax experts who spoke to the Post, if the Trump Foundation would have filed the paperwork it was supposed to, outside accountants would have had a chance to check its books, as well as to ask explicitly whether the foundation had spent any money that benefited Trump or his businesses. In short, they would have been far more likely to spot any number of the red flags that Fahrenthold has uncovered over the past year through his dogged and near-heroic reporting on the foundation, including: the illegal political donation the Trump Foundation made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the foundation cash that appears to have been used to settle Trump’s personal and business disputes, and the $10,000 the foundation paid for a portrait of Trump that now hangs in one of his golf clubs.

Trump and his team will have a hard time pleading ignorant on this one. As the Post reports, Trump’s son Eric has his own New York–based foundation, which unlike his father’s does have the necessary certificate to solicit donations. Both charities share the same accountant.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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