Donald Trump’s foundation reportedly never obtained proper certification that the state of New York requires before charities can ask for money from the public.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the Trump Foundation didn’t obtain registration that’s needed to ask for donations, according to a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
New York law states that any charity that asks for more than $25,000 per year needs to obtain a special registration before soliciting offers. The Trump Foundation, a fairly large charity, must also undergo an audit that asks whether the charity spent any money for personal gain of its top officials. The paper noted that it’s unclear whether the $25,000 was solicited or whether the solicitation occurred in New York.
Schneiderman could order the charity to stop raising money immediately if the allegations turn out to be true. The Democratic attorney general could also make Trump return any money that had been raised.
The Post, citing tax filings, reported that the Trump Foundation had raised more than $25,000 from outsiders in each of the last 10 years. The foundation received more than $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his many businesses, but were instructed to pay the foundation instead, according to the paper.
The Trump Foundation raked in $1.67 million through a website to collect small donations with the promise that it would be funneled to veterans.
From 1987 to 2006, Trump was the sole donor to his foundation – contributing $5.4 million. Under state law, the foundation was only required to have a looser certification and only had to file annual reports with the IRS and state and didn’t need an independent audit.
But starting in 2004, it started to take in smaller donations from others. Money from an autograph seeker was deposited to the Trump Foundation, the Post reported. A year later, the Norwegian Cruise Line donated $100,000 to the Trump Foundation after Melania Trump was named “Godmother” of an ocean liner. Trump stopped donating to his foundation in 2008.
By not obtaining the special certification from New York, the Trump Foundation avoids an audit that can determine whether the foundation engaged in egregious transactions that benefited the Republican presidential nominee or his businesses.
James J. Fishman, a charity law expert and professor at Pace University, told the Post that he was surprised Trump could’ve made the mistake. He added that the errors the foundation seemed to have made are more commonly made by smaller foundations.
“You wouldn’t expect somebody who’s supposed to be sophisticated, and brags about his business prowess, would run his foundation like this.”
Trump has been facing plenty of questions surrounding his foundation. A Washington Post report earlier this week claimed Trump spent $258,000 from his foundation to settle lawsuits that involved his businesses – a move that the Post says may have violated laws against “self-dealing” that bar heads of nonprofits from using charity money to benefit themselves.
The Post cites one instance in which one of Trump’s New York golf courses agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation subsequently was made by the Trump Foundation. The report also cites an instance in which Trump used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a six-foot portrait of himself.
The Clinton campaign said the report showed Trump to be a “fraud” and cited it as proof he needs to release his tax returns.
“Trump’s version of charity is taking money from others to settle his own legal issues and buy at least two pictures of himself, which experts say is a clear violation of laws governing charitable organizations,” spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in a statement.
Trump’s campaign shot back at the report, calling it “peppered with inaccuracies and omissions from a biased reporter” and attempted to turn the spotlight back onto the Clinton Foundation.
"In typical Washington Post fashion, they’ve gotten their facts wrong. It is the Clinton Foundation that is set up to make sure the Clintons personally enrich themselves by selling access and trading political favors,” the statement said. “The Trump Foundation has no paid board, no management fees, no rent or overhead, and no family members on its payroll.”
Fox News’ Tamara Gitt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.