The New York attorney general filed suit Thursday against President Donald Trump and his three eldest children, alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president’s personal charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
The suit claims the president and his family used the nonprofit organization to pay off his businesses’ debts and stage a multimillion-dollar giveaway at his 2016 campaign events, according to filings.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood is calling for Trump to pay at least $2.8 million in penalties and restitution and distribute any remaining assets be distributed to other charities. Underwood has asked a judge to dissolve the foundation.
In September 2017, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation into the charitable foundation "to make sure it's complying with the laws governing charities in New York," Schneiderman said at the time.
That investigation began after a 2013 campaign contribution to Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, was traced back to Trump and his foundation.
Here’s what you need to know about the Donald J. Trump Foundation:
About the Foundation
It was started in 1988 to, according to Trump, give away some of the money made from sale of his book, “The Art of the Deal.”
It’s assets are modest – the largest amount of money in it at any one time was $3.2 million (2009). Its lowest point was in 2007, the foundation’s assets were $4,238. It had about a $1.3 million at last report (2014).
No paid staff; the board is made up of Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and one Trump Organization employee. The Trumps report they each spend 30 minutes a week on foundation work.
Where does the money come from?
Not Donald Trump, apparently. The last time he donated to the foundation was in 2008, according to tax records that go through 2014. That is not to say he has not donated in 2015 or 2016, those records have not been released. The money is donated by others and is doled out to people who request donations.
According to David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, the money has come from a variety of donors who don’t wish to talk about donating. What Fahrenthold has found out from tax filings is that:
- WWE head Vince McMahon and his wife, Linda, donated $5.5 million.
- Richard Ebers, who Fahrenthold described in an NPR interview as “a sort of high-end ticket broker, like tickets to events, in New York City,” gives between $450,000 and $600,000 every year, “always in very odd amounts. It’s never an even amount.”
- John Stark, the chief executive of a carpet company that does business with Trump, has given more than $64,000.
- NBC Universal gave the foundation a $500,000 donation. Fahrenthold said the donation was to cover the cost of the contributions Trump made to contestants on his show, “The Apprentice.”
- People Magazine gave $150,000 for photos of his son, Barron.
- Comedy Central gave $400,000 as an appearance fee for Trump for a roast sponsored by the channel.
- Donna Clancy gave $100,000. She was a tenant at a Trump-owned office building.
How much has Trump given?
Trump has given a total of $5.4 million to the foundation through 2014.
Who gets the money? How much?
The donations have generally been small, by foundation standards - $5,000 to $15,000 - and have often gone to organizations that have done business with Trump.
Here are a few of the larger donations made by the foundation through the years:
- $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and $35,000 to Samaritan’s Purse, both run by Franklin Graham
- $50,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- $25,000 the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
- $40,000 to the Drumthwacket Foundation, which maintains the upkeep of the New Jersey governor’s mansion
- Trump sponsored one of Sen. Rand Paul’s trips to Guatemala where the senator in his capacity as a physician performed eye surgeries for needy patients.
- $100,000 to the conservative activist group Citizens United
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