Clinton Staffer Blasts Trump Over Charity Funds Scandal

     (CN) — Problems plaguing two personal endeavors Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has touted while on the campaign trail — Trump Foundation and Trump University — confirm the nominee is a “fraud who believes the rules don’t apply to him,” according to a Hillary Clinton campaign staffer.
     “Clearly the Trump Foundation is as much a charitable organization as Trump University is an institute of higher education,” Clinton campaign deputy communications director Christina Reynolds said in a statement. The response followed a Washington Post article published Tuesday which revealed Trump spent $258,000 from his charity to settle lawsuits.
     Reynolds also called for Trump to release his tax returns to show “whether his tax issues extend to his own personal finances,” echoing many Trump critics who say the presidential nominee’s business and legal troubles indicate he is unfit to serve as president.
     Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold’s story revealed Trump used funds from his charitable foundation to pay to settle lawsuits and legal troubles. Most of the instances cited by Fahrenthold involved Trump making a large donation to the charity of a plaintiff’s choosing as part of a settlement agreement. But Trump didn’t dip into his own pocket to pay up, instead he wrote huge checks — the highest topping $158,000 — using Trump Foundation money.
     In one instance, Trump faced a $120,000 fine from the city of Palm Beach, Florida, for an oversized flagpole at his Mar-a-Lago nightclub. The city agreed to waive the fines in exchange for Trump making a $100,000 donation to a veterans charity. But Trump sent a check from the Trump Foundation instead of his own account, according to Fahrenthold.
     A similar case cited by Fahrenthold shows that one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A check for $158,000 was written out by the Trump Foundation in that case as well.
     Smaller amounts between $5,000 and $20,000 were also doled out by the foundation for things it shouldn’t have paid for, like when Trump used $20,000 in foundation money to pay for a six-foot-tall portrait of himself, Fahrenthold said.
     Fahrenthold talked to attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who represents 700 nonprofits and called the revelations about the Trump Foundation “about as blatant example of self-dealing as I’ve seen in a while.”
     The conduct may have violated laws which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or others. If the Internal Revenue Source finds that Trump violated the laws, he could be required to pay penalty taxes or reimburse the foundation.
     Despite serving as the foundation’s president, Trump has not donated personally to the foundation since 2009, Fahrenthold found. The Trump Foundation was founded in 1987 and includes pro-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon as top donors.
     The Post revealed potential conflicts of interest when it reported earlier this year that the foundation gave $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican. The gift was made about the same time her office was looking into fraud allegations against Trump University.
     Her office didn’t investigate Trump University, a decision she defended Tuesday.
     Trump’s staff insists the 2013 donation to Bondi was a “clerical error.” The presidential nominee’s attorney said last week he signs hundreds of checks a week and simply didn’t catch the error. The foundation ended up paying a $2,500 fine to the IRS over its improper donation to Bondi.
     House Democrats have since called for an investigation into the Trump Foundation.

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