Donald Trump allegedly spent a total of $258,000 from his charity foundation to settle lawsuits involving his for-profit businesses, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing court documents and tax records.
In one of four cases detailed in the Post‘s report, the GOP nominee’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Florida, over a dispute about the size of a flagpole displayed at the club. (The flagpole stood 80 feet tall – 38 feet higher than Palm Beach’s 42-foot limit for flagpoles. Trump’s club sued the town in federal court, saying a smaller flag “would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s … patriotism.”)
As part of a 2007 settlement, the town agreed to waive the fines if Trump donated $100,000 to a specific veterans charity. Trump wrote a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, his charitable organization that is funded almost exclusively by contributions from others, according to tax records.
In another case, one of Trump’s golf courses in New York settled a lawsuit by donating $158,000 to a charity chosen by the plaintiff. This donation was also made by Trump’s foundation, tax records show.
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Several tax experts told the Post that these two cases appeared to be “classic” cases of “self-dealing.” The newspaper says Trump may have violated laws against self-dealing that “prohibit nonprofits leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.” If the IRS were to find that Trump has violated these self-dealing laws, he could be forced to pay penalty taxes or reimburse his foundation.
When asked for comment by the Post, the Trump campaign did not respond.
Hillary for America Deputy Communications Director Christina Reynolds issued the following statement:
“Clearly the Trump Foundation is as much a charitable organization as Trump University is an institute of higher education. 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. Once again, Trump has proven himself a fraud who believes the rules don’t apply to him. It’s past time for him to release his tax returns to show whether his tax issues extend to his own personal finances.”
The Post‘s report comes as Trump’s charity foundation is being investigated by the New York attorney general’s office.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the investigation last week, saying, “We have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety from that point of view. And we’ve inquired into it, and we’ve had correspondence with them. I didn’t make a big deal out of it or hold a press conference. We have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.”