Why Is The Donald J. Trump Foundation Shutting Down? The President's Organization Was Plagued With Problems
NBC News reported Monday that Donald Trump will be closing his charitable organization, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. In tax documents obtained by NBC News, the foundation said that it has "announced its intent to dissolve and is seeking approval to distribute its remaining funds." However, the New York Attorney General's office tells Bustle that the foundation isn't yet allowed to legally dismantle itself.
"The foundation is still under investigation by our office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," Amy Spitalnick, press secretary for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, tells Bustle.
The foundation told NBC News that it is still cooperating with Schnederman's investigation.
"The Foundation continues to cooperate with the New York Attorney General’s Charities Division, and as previously announced by the President, his advisers are working with the Charities Division to wind up the affairs of the Foundation," a spokesperson for the foundation said. "The Foundation looks forward to distributing its remaining assets at the earliest possible time to aid numerous worthy charitable organizations."
Schneiderman announced in September 2016 that his office was investigating the Trump Foundation "to make sure it's complying with the laws governing charities in New York." In response, the Trump campaign called Schneiderman "a partisan hack."
That same month, however, the Washington Post reported that Trump had used donations from the foundation to settle lawsuits related to his for-profit businesses. At the time, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign said that the Post report was "peppered with inaccuracies and omissions" and had its "facts wrong," although that spokesperson didn't dispute any specific claims that the Post made.
Weeks after Trump won the election, the Post reported that the Trump Foundation, in filings to the IRS, had admitted to violating a legal ban on "self-dealing." That's a legal provision that bans the leaders of charities from redirecting contributions to help themselves, their family members or their businesses. Trump's team declined to comment on that story.
In December 2016, Trump announced his intent to dissolve the Trump Foundation.
"The Foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children," Trump said in December 2016. "However, to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President I have decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways." It's unclear what specific steps Trump has taken to dissolve the foundation.
The Post's David Fahrenthold has reported extensively on the Trump Foundation's practices, and concluded that it "collects and spends money in a very unusual manner." In many instances, the foundation reportedly collected money from other donors and then presented them to organizations under Trump's name, arguably giving the impression that Trump himself had donated the money. The Post also reported that Trump once used $20,000 in charitable contributions to the foundation to purchase a six-foot-tall painting of himself, and separately, had paid a penalty to the IRS in 2016 for giving $25,000 of the foundation's money to a political action committee supporting the reelection of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Trump himself has not donated any of his own money to the Trump Foundation since 2008, according to NBC News. The Post also noted that the foundation, according to its own records, appeared to be a shoestring operation. As of 2016, it had no paid staffers, only five unpaid board members. Four of those board members were members of the Trump family, and none worked more than a half hour a week.
In the tax filings obtained by NBC News, the foundation reported having $970,000 in remaining funds, which it said it intends to distribute to other charities.