Trump Foundation's Gift To Florida A.G. Pam Bondi Was A Little Illegal. Is That A Crime?
So many shared interests -- like shouting.
You might recall that really nice favor that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi did for Donald Trump a few years back. She was considering an investigation into whether the Florida operations of Trump's grifty little "University" were fraud, but then Trump made a $25,000 donation to a group connected with her campaign and Bondi decided -- completely independently of course -- Trump University was perfectly legitimate. And don't you go thinking that was a bribe either, because Bondi had asked Trump for a donation before she even made the decision not to investigate. No proof at all that anyone quidded on anybody else's pro quo, no sir.
Ah, but there was one tiny wrinkle in the deal (which was definitely not a deal, no, it was not!): Instead of giving Bondi's group the money himself, Trump's donation came from the Trump Foundation. Turns out that's illegal, since charitable foundations aren't supposed to be making political contributions, as if that's fair. But since it was only a violation of tax law, everything's fine now: Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 fine and reimbursed his foundation for the $25,000, and now there's nothing to see, move along please.
Would you believe there's little evidence that Donald Trump has given anything near the amount of money he says he gives to charity? Of course you would.
Earlier this year, The Washington Post and a liberal watchdog group raised new questions about the three-year-old gift. The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint with the IRS — noting that, as a registered nonprofit, the Trump Foundation was not allowed to make political donations.
Oh, but there's more! Not only did the Trump Foundation fail to notify the IRS of the donation, it also listed a nonexistent donation for $25,000 to a Kansas City group with a name similar to Bondi's outfit, which "had the effect of obscuring the political gift from the IRS." Imagine that! Mind you, once the Trump Organization found out about all this -- courtesy of the Washington Post -- they got everything in order, which was awfully nice of them, now wasn't it?
On Thursday, Jeffrey McConney -- senior vice president and controller at the Trump Organization -- said that after being notified, Trump filed paperwork informing the IRS of the political gift and paid an excise tax equal to 10 percent of its value.
McConney said that Trump had also personally reimbursed the Trump Foundation for $25,000, covering the full value of the improper gift. McConney blamed a series of mistakes, all of them unintentional. McConney said there had been no attempt to deceive.
Look, these things happen when you're a busy man trying to juggle a lot of
payoffs gifts to political figures who share your views. McConney explained the iffy donation was "just an honest mistake," and that "It wasn’t done intentionally to hide a political donation, it was just an error." Fahrenthold didn't note whether anyone was standing next to McConney poking him in the ribs and whispering "that's enough!"
Fahrenthold notes that, unlike lots of rich people's foundations which give lots and lots of money to charities, the Trump Foundation doesn't see much action, giving most of its gifts to "people whom Trump knows, or charities that hold their galas at his properties in New York and Florida."have the name "Clinton" on them, which you will note the Trump Foundation does not. In this case, it really does look like the foundation's gift to Bondi's political group resulted from a series of mostly innocent screwups, maybe. As we already knew, back in 2013 when she was considering investigating Trump University's Florida operations for fraud, Pam Bondi asked Trump for a donation, because that's just how politics works. Trump thought that was a terrific idea, because he loves to help like-minded attorneys general, even though he didn't donate to any other state attorney general campaigns that year. And that's where the sad-trombone mistakes started piling up.
The name of Pam Bondi's group was "And Justice for All," which led to a little confusion in the mighty financial machinery at Trump HQ. The clerk who handles all the checks for payments from Trump's personal account and from the Trump Foundation dun goofed; the clerk knew political donations should be paid out of Trump's own funds, and charitable payments from the foundation. Turns out Bondi's group had chosen way too generic a name, and high jinks ensued!
In March, Trump's chief financial officer told The Post that a mistake occurred when an accounting clerk — following office protocol — looked in a book that contained a list of all official charities. The clerk's standing order from Trump was that, if the payee was listed in this book of charities, the check should be paid from the Trump Foundation, not from Trump's own account.
The clerk found a group called "And Justice for All" listed in the book.
The clerk cut the check from the Trump Foundation [...]
Trump's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, told The Post that the charity in the book was actually from Utah, and unconnected to Bondi. If the clerk had known that the check was meant for a political group, Weisselberg said, “we would have taken it out of [Trump’s] own personal account.”
After that, a check from the foundation went out. It did not go to Utah but to Bondi's group in Florida, and was deposited.
Huh. So the clerk was confused enough by the name to cut the check to the wrong organization, but clearheaded enough to send it to the right state? We guess that could happen, like if the address was listed on the instructions to send $25,000. Sure.
Oh, but this next part really doesn't sound like much of an accident, kids. In its tax filings, the Trump Foundation checked off "no" in a box asking if it had made any political donations. It also told the IRS it had made a charitable donation that never actually happened, if you can imagine that:
The foundation told the IRS that it had given $25,000 to a third group, a charity in Kansas with a similar name, "Justice for All." In fact, the Trump Foundation had not actually sent the Kansas group any money.
This new, incorrect listing had the effect of camouflaging the prohibited gift. Trump's CFO said that the listing of the Kansas group was another mistake, made by the foundation's accountants.
Oopsie! We suppose it's possible, with all those "Justice for All" groups floating around out there, it could be a simple error that happened to make a political donation look like a charitable donation to a completely different group (that never happened) sure. We also imagine the accounting in the White House is a lot more careful than that, maybe.
No, "Julie's Jungle" in the line above "Justice for All" is not a strip club; it's a nonprofit what has playgrounds for disabled kids, you sickos.
So now, everything's copacetic and that little error has all been taken care of, right? Almost, kind of -- except for how those meddling liberals at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington say it's not good enough that Trump reimbursed the Trump Foundation for the $25,000. To really conform with IRS regulations, they say, the Foundation needs to take back the donation to Bondi's group altogether. Funny thing there, too: Nancy Watkins, the treasurer of Bondi's iteration of "Justice For All," said after she learned the foundation's donation was improper, she tried to FedEx a check back to the Trump Foundation. But the foundation called her and declined to take the refund.
Watkins said she was told, "Mr. Trump had reimbursed the foundation with a personal check. And that was the end of it."
Look, Donald Trump is the one who decides when he's in compliance with the law, not some charity. He's taken care of it, now stop making a fuss.
Let us close with a hat tip to Guy Cecil, the co-chair of pro-Clinton super-PAC Priorities USA, for his tweet that alerted us to this latest wrinkle in the story of Donald Trump's very well-timed donation that had nothing at all to do with Bondi's decision not to investigate Trump University, for fraud:
Wall to wall coverage? Seems like that would only be justice, for all.
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.