If you think that my headline is hyperbolic, take it up with Forbes, who titled their report “How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business.” The story is impeccably sourced with official filings and on the record quotes from people in the know, and it is incredibly damning. In a normal world, this would be a scandal that rocks the entire country to its core, but this will likely be forgotten by the end of the week with James Comey’s testimony looming on Thursday. Forbes speaks to Eric Trump, and juxtapose his words with his own financial disclosures. For example, Eric said that because his family’s golf course comes free to host events, “we get to use our assets 100% free of charge.” Yet when Forbes reviewed filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and associated charities, they found that:
it’s clear that the course wasn’t free—that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.
This paragraph is especially awful.
And while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.
The Eric Trump Foundation used to be a simple charity that really did raise a lot of money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, among others, but in 2011, things changed. Forbes revealed that the costs for the golf tournament increased by over 300% that year, but why? According to Ian Gillule, who was the membership and marketing director at Trump National Westchester golf course in two separate stints spanning 2006 to 2015, “Mr. Trump had a cow. He flipped. He was like, ‘We’re donating all of this stuff, and there’s no paper trail? No credit?’ And he went nuts. He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s my son or not—everybody gets billed.’”
According to IRS filings, the listed costs of the charity golf tournament rose as high as $322,000 in 2015, even though the amount raised in these events never surpassed the 2012 peak of $59,000. This is where it gets fishy, since Eric Trump said that “we get to use our assets 100% free of charge.” Forbes couldn’t find a path to make up the difference, and neither could the former head golf professional at Trump National Westchester, Patrick Langan, as he told them, “If you gave me that much money to run a tournament, I couldn’t imagine what we could do. It certainly wasn’t done that way.”
There is a clue as to what changed, as the first year that the costs rose, four of the seven original board members left (all friends of Eric), and 14 new board members replaced them—almost all of whom are connected to the Trump Organization, like his top lawyer Michael Cohen and Dan Scavino Jr., who now work for him in the White House. Per Forbes:
“They were wearing two hats,” says Langan, the former director of golf, who says he sat in on meetings where he couldn’t tell where the business ended and the charity began. “You’re dealing with people talking about the event and the charity who also at the same time are thinking about it as a corporation and as a business. It’s a for-profit club. You know, they’re trying to make money.”
David Fahrenthold, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work exposing the Trump Organization last year, reported in November that in Donald Trump’s 2015 IRS filings, his “charitable foundation has admitted to the Internal Revenue Service that it violated a legal prohibition against ‘self-dealing,’ which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.”
Fahrenthold reached out to Eric Trump today, as the report in Forbes directly contradicts what he was told last year.
From 2010 to 2014, Trump gave $0 to the Trump Foundation. Thanks to Fahrenthold’s tireless work during the 2016 campaign, it’s safe to say that our president’s “charity” is just a mirage that he uses to further enrich himself. Forbes has now added to that picture with a story about how the Eric Trump Foundation became another one of these fraudulent vessels as soon as Donald got his cronies on the board, and took control away from his son who was genuinely helping kids with cancer. Playing off his son’s previous accomplishments, the President of the United States used kids with cancer as a prop to add to his already inflated bank account.
I would say that I’m surprised, but given that Donald Trump is human sewage, this is exactly the type of behavior that I would expect from someone whose moral compass has been pointed firmly in his own direction since he stepped into the public eye. The Forbes report is one of the most well-sourced and comprehensive stories you’ll read on our historically shady president, and everyone should read this background on the saga. It bears repeating again just so none of us will ever forget: Donald Trump hosted a charity golf tournament to allegedly help kids with cancer, but the coward pocketed the money and scuttled back to his gilded palace in Manhattan. Fuck Donald Trump.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.