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In yet another indication of exactly what a financial genius Donald Trump is, the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold has uncovered yet another creative way Trump made use of funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, the alleged "charity" Trump set up to distribute money from the sale of his dumb book -- and to which he hasn't contributed his own cash since 2008. In addition to using it (accidentally, he swears) to make political contributions, Trump also used over a quarter-million bucks from the foundation "to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses," if you can imagine that. We'll give you a moment to recover from the shock.

Says Fahrenthold,

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.

Damned neighborhood associations and their stupid rules. So what Trump agreed to, in order to settle the suit, was to make a $100,000 donation to a veterans charity specified by the city. That was supposed to be paid out by Mar-a-Lago, but of course it wasn't: Trump "donated" the money from the Trump Foundation, which is funded almost entirely by donations from other people. Lookie, here's the check!

Oh, and there's more! Trump settled a lawsuit involving one of his damn golf courses with an agreement to make a donation to a charity chosen by the plaintiff; that one, too, was paid for with a $158,000 donation -- not from Trump's damn golf course, but from his damn foundation. That and the check to the veterans group were the two biggies, but Fahrenthold found some others, too:

The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.

Or, rather, another portrait of himself.

Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.

As we said before, no, not that one.

So, it's not like any of that is actually illegal, is it? And even if it was, it's certainly not nearly as ethically questionable as meeting with Nobel laureates you're already friends with, right? Oh, maybe it IS illegal!

If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the office of the New York attorney general, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

Pfft. "Moral conventions of philanthropy"! How are we supposed to beat ISIS if our hands are tied by Political Correctness?

Just in case there might be anything at all shocking about using charitable funds to pay off one's business-related legal costs, Fahrenthold spoke to Jeffrey Tenenbaum, a lawyer who advises charities, and you may be shocked to hear he found the practice shocking:

"I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen," [said Tenenbaum. ...] After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

Just for laughs, Fahrenthold sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the contributions, because that's what journalists do, and you never know, maybe someday a new intern may check the email and answer the questions. That didn't happen this time. The New York A.G.'s office had no comment either, though we wouldn't doubt if they scribbled down the check numbers and said "Hmmm" and "You don't say?" to themselves a lot.

Fahrenthold also includes this fun recap of the flap over the Mar-a-Lago Flag-o:

The case involving the flagpole at Trump’s oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club began in 2006, when the club put up a giant American flag on the 80-foot pole. Town rules said flagpoles should be 42 feet high at most. Trump’s contention, according to news reports, was: “You don’t need a permit to put up the American flag.”

The town began to fine Trump, $1,250 a day.

Trump’s club sued in federal court, saying that a smaller flag “would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s . . . patriotism.”

They settled.

Imagine that! We heard from reliable source Donald Trump that he never settles.

Trump agreed to make that big old payment to the charity for veterans, Fisher House, and the city said he could keep his big dumb flag, because there are no size problems in that area, either. Not only did Trump say he gave that group $100K, he also gave an extra $25,000 to a second group, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.

Because he's such a stand-up guy who always documents his business dealings (but shut up about his tax returns, please), Trump even provided the town of Palm Beach copies of the checks. Funny thing -- they were both paid by the Trump Foundation, not the resort. Fahrenthold checked, and people in local government didn't really notice that the checks came from Trump The Foundation, not from Trump The Guy:

“I don’t know that there was any attention paid to that at the time. We just saw two checks signed by Donald J. Trump,” said John Randolph, the Palm Beach town attorney. “I’m sure we were satisfied with it.”

Which is fine -- they're not the IRS, after all.

The other big check also has a doozy of a story behind it:

In 2010, a man named Martin Greenberg hit a hole-in-one on the 13th hole while playing in a charity tournament at Trump’s course in Westchester County, N.Y.

Greenberg won a $1 million prize. Briefly.

Later, Greenberg was told that he had won nothing. The prize’s rules required that the shot had to go 150 yards. But Trump’s course had allegedly made the hole too short.

Greenberg sued.

Eventually, court papers show, Trump’s golf course signed off on a settlement that required it to make a donation of Martin Greenberg’s choosing. Then, on the day that the parties informed the court they had settled their case, a $158,000 donation was sent to the Martin Greenberg Foundation.

That money came from the Trump Foundation, according to the tax filings of both Trump’s and Greenberg’s foundations.

Again, Fahrenthold checked up with real experts on taxes and charities -- though god knows his duty as a journalist really is to tell America what a great guy Trump is, and who cares what pocket the donations came out of -- to make clear Trump was doing some high-level fuckery with other people's money (remember, no money of his own has gone into the foundation since '08).

Rosemary E. Fei, a lawyer in San Francisco who advises nonprofits, said both cases clearly fit the definition of self-dealing.

“Yes, Trump pledged as part of the settlement to make a payment to a charity, and yes, the foundation is writing a check to a charity,” Fei said. “But the obligation was Trump’s. And you can’t have charitable foundation paying off Trump’s personal obligations. That would be classic self-dealing.”

How about that! We can only imagine how Trump will use that business expertise as president. Maybe he's not lying about Mexico paying for the border wall, if he somehow got the PIN to the Mexico Foundation's account, for instance.

There's more, and we hope you'll read Fahrenthold's full piece, which is a model of covering all the bases in doing an investigation of a guy who refuses to answer any uncomfortable questions about his finances, except with lies and threats to sue.

Fitzgerald was right. The rich are different from you and me. They have far more options for committing massive fraud.

[WaPo / ThinkProgress]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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