October 1, 2016

David Fahrenthold over at the Washington Post dropped a new Trump Foundation blockbuster last night. According to Fahrenthold, the Trump Foundation had not applied for the proper New York license to collect donations from other people when the total exceeded $25,000.

Donald Trump’s charitable foundation — which has been sustained for years by donors outside the Trump family — has never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public, according to the state attorney general’s office.

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. Charities as large as Trump’s must also submit to a rigorous annual audit that asks — among other things — whether the charity spent any money for the personal benefit of its officers.

If New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) finds that Trump’s foundation raised money in violation of the law, he could order the charity to stop raising money immediately. With a court’s permission, Schneiderman could also force Trump to return money that his foundation has already raised.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, because personal foundations have different rules from public foundations with regard to spending down the principal, audit requirements, and other rules on a federal level. But also because as Fahrenthold observes, Trump would have had to report any expenditures that were considered to be self-dealing, as the acquisition of football helmets and personal portraits would have been. Further, the payment of a lawsuit settlement out of foundation funds would also have been deemed to be self-dealing.

Worse yet, Eric Trump's foundation, which holds an annual golf tournament to raise funds for true philanthropic purposes like children's health and animal rescues, does have that license. Both foundations have the same accountant, so one has to ask whether or not Trump intentionally chose not to apply for the license because he planned to use that foundation for self-dealing purposes.

Enter the surrogates, who really have no rebuttal to all of this. Instead of actually just saying something like, "Mr. Trump made those decisions and I have no further comment," Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn went on CNN today to slime Fahrenthold.

In an interview on CNN, Epshteyn declared, "I'm not the attorney or the accountant for the Foundation. David Fahrenthold is not an accountant at all. He's trying to find clues and piece them together. All of his other writings have been complete failures."

Well no, they've been really accurate, actually. As someone who spends a fair amount of her own time combing through non-profit tax returns, I'm here to tell you that Fahrenthold's reporting has been right on the mark when it comes to what he has uncovered and the implications of that. No hysterical overblown reports at all. He's dealt in the facts and been tireless about following up on them.

As further evidence of Fahrenthold's solid reporting, Trump nor any of his surrogates have actually denied the allegations or pointed out one factual inaccuracy. But for good measure, Epshteyn just flatly lied. "It's his job but he's the reporter that's dead set on disparaging this Foundation that does good work."

I'm at a loss to see the good work the Foundation is doing. Eric Trump's foundation certainly seems to be doing good work, giving millions to Children's Hospital and other charities that actually help people. Donald Trump, not so much. His donations look more like the small amounts someone gives to get the entrance into New York society circles.

Except, of course, for the $100,000 donation given to Citizens United. That was one of Trump's largest donations to any "charity." Are you surprised? Me either.

They simply cannot spin these stories, no matter how hard they try. It's not possible. Alone, they should disqualify him for office. Taken together, they paint a really ugly picture of how utterly unfit Donald Trump is to be anywhere near the levers of power.

The first part of the Fahrenthold interview is below, where he shares the facts he's uncovered with CNN hosts John Berman and Kate Bolduan.

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