Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has throughout his career given campaign contributions to state attorneys general while they weighed decisions affecting his business, a review of his political donations shows.
The issue recently surfaced during a controversy over his 2013 campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was reviewing a fraud case against Trump University.
Records show Mr. Trump, his family and associates donated in particular to attorneys general in New York, from Robert Abrams in the 1980s through incumbent Eric Schneiderman. The money was given often when Mr. Trump’s companies had decisions pending in these offices. Attorneys general are law-enforcement officials with significant oversight of business practices in their states.
Mr. Trump in his presidential bid has portrayed himself as an outsider independent from special interests and what he called the “rigged” political system. The candidate and his aides have said making legal contributions doesn’t put him in the same category as what they describe as career politicians, such as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, his opponent for the White House.
“He has always said he’s given to politicians his entire career and he thinks the system is broken,” said Alan Garten, general counsel at the Trump Organization, an umbrella company for Mr. Trump’s businesses. “Thinking that the system is broken doesn’t preclude him from giving to politicians when they are knocking on his door 365 days of the year.”
Mr. Trump has been open about his motives. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” he told The Wall Street Journal in July 2015 in discussing donations to Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. “As a businessman, I need that.”
In total, Mr. Trump has given about $140,000 to a dozen people who either were state attorneys general or running for the post from 2001 to 2014, according to donation records. Some of the recipients returned the contributions. Totals before 2001 weren’t available.