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Donald Trump's Fake Charity Very Generous To Phony 'Art Museum,' Stiffed Kids With AIDS. Just Imagine.
Whoa. Never saw that coming, by golly.
It's really difficult to say what's the most jaw-dropping part of David Fahrenthold's latest Washington Post story on the huge gulf between what Donald Trump says he does for charity and what Donald Trump actually does for charity. Was it Trump crashing a ceremony for a charity that helped children with AIDS without having made a donation himself? Trump using Trump Foundation Funds to pay $7 in 1989 to the Boy Scouts, when Donald Jr. was 11 and a Scouting membership cost seven bucks? Trump stiffing a public school's chess club? No, we are joking at you: the most jaw-dropping part of the story is the part about a couple of big donations to a "Museum of Catholic Art and History" that was about as sleazy as the Great Man himself.
You really need to read the whole thing, which appears to be the capstone of Fahrenthold's months-long look at Donald Trump as fake philanthropist (or not -- Crom knows there could be more on the way). But let us hit you with a few highlights, some of which may have violated IRS regulations against "self-dealing" -- that is, using a charitable foundation's funds to benefit the owner or employees of the foundation, instead of, you know,charity. Others were just plain Donald Trump being an asshole.
In 1996, Trump crashed a ribbon-cutting for the Association to Benefit Children, a Manhattan preschool serving children with AIDS, and sat himself right down on the dais near Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Mayor David Dinkins. Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford were there, too! And Trump helped himself to a seat that had been reserved for Steven Fisher, a developer who'd been a top donor. Trump? Not a penny. But there he was, taking a donor's seat and looking like a great philanthropist. In an email to Fisher the next day, the charity's executive director, Gretchen Buchenholz, told the developer "I am just heartsick" and explained, "I immediately said ‘no,’ but Rudy Giuliani said ‘yes’ and I felt I had to accede to him." She told Fahrenthold Fisher remained a donor even after being bounced out of the place of honor. You know, like a decent guy. As for Trump, he didn't give anything to the Association to Benefit Children until three years later, when he bought tickets to a grand galloping gala held aboard a cruise ship. Big surprise: he paid for them with $2,000 from the Trump Foundation.
The Trump Foundation's biggest single donation, $264,631, went to a fund to refurbish the Pulitzer Fountain just outside Central Park -- and right across from Trump's Plaza Hotel. By 1989, the fountain had been turned off and was falling apart, and since New York City didn't have funds to refurbish it, owners of the properties nearby were asked by the Central Park Conservancy to contribute to help restore the fountain. So Trump's Foundation made a very generous donation that just happened to turn a dilapidated eyesore right across from the front door of his hotel into a lovely historic attraction. You know, for the good of the city.
Fahrenthold also went looking for the very first donation that might be considered self-dealing, and found it in 1987, the year the Trump Foundation was incorporated: the Trump Foundation thoughtfully gave $100 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which just happened to be the cost that year for a two-person membership. Fahrenthold dutifully notes that Trump didn't reply to a question about whether he'd purchased the membership for his own use. Same for the seven bucks to the Boy Scouts in 1989 -- no answer on whether that was little Donnie Jr.'s registration fee. (Considering the other shit Dad put him through, maybe that seven dollars was of some comfort, illegal or no.)
In 1997, Trump was honored as "principal for a day" at a public school in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx. The chess team was short $5,000 to go to a tournament, and was holding a bake sale, and so Donald Trump, "billionaire," handed the kids a real thrilling gift: a fake million-dollar bill. Oh, and a whopping $200 in actual money. David MacEnulty, the chess team's coach, told Fahrenthold, when asked why Trump only gave $200, "I have no idea [...] He was about the most clueless person I’ve ever seen in that regard.” Happily, when the New York Times wrote about the incident, a disgusted reader donated the rest of the money for the chess team's trip. MacEnulty recalled she said, "I am ashamed to be the same species as this man," nearly 20 years ahead of millions of voters.
And then there's the scammy "National Museum of Catholic Art and History," which was already notorious in its own right for having a lot of Mob-adjacent friends, thanks to some fine muckraking by The Village Voice's Wayne Barrett -- more funtimes reading for your Sunday, kids. Like attracted like, it seems: the Trump Foundation gave the museum $50,000 in 1995 and another $50,000 in 1999, which may seem odd, given that however much he likes his little sip of wine and his little cracker, Donald Trump is allegedly
Episcopalian [correction: ] Presbyterian, though maybe a little weak on his Bible-knowing.
The museum was housed for much of the 1990s in a former headquarters for “Fat Tony” Salerno of the Genovese crime family in East Harlem. It had few visitors and little art. A Village Voice reporter, visiting in 2001, said the collection included a photo of the pope, some nun dolls bought from the Home Shopping Network, and -- just off the dining room -- “a black Jacuzzi decorated with simmering candles, gold-plated soap dishes, and kitsch angel figurines.”
Trump is not Catholic.
But he and the museum had a mutual friend.
Ed Malloy, who was then the chairman of the museum’s board, was the head of the powerful labor group, the Building and Construction Trades Council. News reports from the time indicate that he was a business ally of Trump’s: Union members worked on Trump buildings, and Malloy helped Trump line up vital financing from a union pension fund.
“Contributing to this museum -- you know, it only made sense in the context of relationships,” said Wayne Barrett, the Village Voice reporter, in a recent interview.
Mr. Malloy died in 2012, and the museum closed in 2010; if it ever emerges from bankruptcy, it might reopen in Washington DC. Or not at all. The museum's former director, Christina Cox, a character in her own right in Barrett's story, declined to talk to Fahrenthold, for some reason: “I cannot give you a comment. I don’t want to be quoted on anything,” she said. She could be waiting for a cabinet appointment in the Trump administration.
What we are saying is that Donald Trump is really, really BAD at charity, and in a better world, David Fahrenthold's articles on Trump's pretense of being a philanthropist would be mandatory reading for all voters (fictional Trump spokesperson Crystal Nacht tells us he thought it was the same as a "philanderer"). As it is, Fahrenthold will probably have to settle for this year's Pulitzer (if he doesn't get it, the system is RIGGED!) and for knowing he's done some of the best investigative journalism possible on a presidential candidate who's done everything possible to hide what a fraud he is. Go, read, and come back later for some Senate Sunday and Dear Shitferbrains. You may want to cushion your jaw.