NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman office declared President-elect Donald Trump is not permitted to close his charitable foundation, the Donald J. Trump Foundation Inc., until state prosecutors have completed their probe determining whether Trump personally benefited from the foundation’s spending.
Schneiderman’s decision Tuesday to investigate Trump over inurement charges – that Trump may have violated IRS regulations prohibiting those owning or operating a 501(c)3 charity for private financial benefit – contrasts with the decision not to investigate the Clinton Foundation over similar accusations, despite evidence in the Podesta emails WikiLeaks released during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The size of Trump’s foundation is dwarfed by the Clinton Foundation.
According to IRS Form 990 tax filings, the Trump Foundation had total revenue of $500,849 in 2014.
Comparable IRS Form 990 tax filings show the Clinton Foundation had total revenue of nearly $178 million the same year.
Probe of Trump’s foundation
Schneiderman’s investigation into the Trump Foundation began after Trump admitted in a 2015 tax filing made after the presidential election that he had used $258,000 in charity funds to settle lawsuits in his for-profit businesses. He also used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements featuring his chain of hotels in three events organized by a D.C. preservation group, plus some $30,000 in foundation funds to buy two portraits of himself. One portrait was purchased at a charity fundraiser and the other, a 6-foot tall portrait of himself, was purchased at a fundraiser auction held at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold noted in an article published Sept. 20 that Trump founded his charity in 1987 and was its only donor.
The newspaper further noted that in 2006, Trump gave away almost all the money he had donated to the foundation, leaving it with just $4,238 at year end, according to tax records. Trump gave relatively small donations in 2007 and 2008, and nothing afterward. The largest donation came from pro-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon, who gave $5 million from 2007 to 2008.
In response to the Washington Post article, Trump issued a statement charging the newspaper with bias. Trump pointed to the Clinton Foundation, which he alleged was created and operated for the Clinton’s personal financial benefit.
“In typical Washington Post fashion, they’ve gotten their facts wrong,” the Trump statement, also dated Sept. 20, said. “It is the Clinton Foundation that is set up to make sure the Clintons personally enrich themselves by selling access and trading political favors. The Trump Foundation has no paid board, no management fees, no rent or overhead, and no family members on its payroll.”
Trump argued all contributions to the Trump Foundation were reported to the IRS, stressing there was no intent or motive for his foundation to make improper payments.
“The Post’s reporting is peppered with inaccuracies and omissions from a biased reporter who is clearly intent on distracting attention away from the corrupt Clinton Foundation, a vehicle for the Clintons to peddle influence at the expense of the American people,” Trump’s statement concluded. “Mr. Trump personally and the Trump Foundation, however, are staying focused on their charitable giving to veterans, the police, children and other deserving recipients.”
Trump announced on Christmas Eve that he wanted to close his foundation before he takes office next month to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest with his role as president of the United Sates.
Clinton Foundation gets a pass
The key WikiLeaks document regarding the Clinton Foundation was an email dated Nov. 16, 2011, written while Hillary Clinton was still secretary of state by Doug Band, Bill Clinton’s “body man” at the White House. Band subsequently founded with Clinton the consulting firm Teneo, Inc.
The email was addressed to Podesta, Hillary’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman, with copies to Cheryl Mills, Hillary’s long-time confidant and personal attorney at the State Department, and Justin Cooper, a senior adviser to Bill Clinton at the Clinton Foundation
The attachment consisted of a memo Band wrote documenting the conflicts of interest that were corrupting the Clinton Foundation from within. The attached memo, titled “Background on Teneo and Foundation Activities,” was addressed to two senior Simpson Thacher lawyers, with copies to Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Podesta. Also copied were Clinton Foundation attorney and then-CEO Bruce Lindsey and Clinton longtime associate Terry McAuliffe, both Clinton Foundation board members at the time.
Simpson Thatcher was the international law firm based in New York that Chelsea Clinton brought into the Clinton Foundation in 2011 in an effort to clean up the foundation’s financial mess before an internal scandal erupted to the detriment of Hillary Clinton’s second try to win the White House.
Band apparently wrote the memo to explain his role in obvious conflicts of interest that were inherent in the Clinton Foundation and Teneo policy of key foundation donors also being key Teneo consulting clients. Coca-Cola Company topped the list, giving $4.3 million since 2004 to the Clinton Foundation and/or the Clinton Global Initiative while also being a Teneo consulting client.
“Independent of our fundraising and decision-making activities on behalf of the Foundation, [Band and the other principals at Teneo] have dedicated ourselves to helping the President (Bill Clinton) secure and engage in for-profit activities – including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements,” Band noted in the memo.
“In that context, we have in effect served as agents, lawyers, managers and implementers to secure speaking, business and advisory service deals,” Band continued. “In support of the President’s for-profit activity, we also have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like.”
$30 million for Bill Clinton personally
Band noted that of Bill Clinton’s four consulting arrangements at the time, Teneo had secured all of them. It also helped Clinton maintain and manage “all of his for-profit business relationships [unspecified in the memo].”
Band concluded: “Since 2001, President Clinton’s business arrangements have yielded more than $30 million for him personally, with $66 million to be paid out over the next nine years should he choose to continue with the current engagements.”
The memo also noted Band and his colleagues at Teneo had arranged for Clinton millions of dollars in speaking fees.
Band stressed that he and his Teneo partners for the past 10 years “served as the primary contact and point of management for President Clinton’s activities – which span from political activity (e.g., campaigning on behalf of candidates for elected office), to business activity (e.g., providing advisory services to business entities with which he has a consulting arrangement), to Foundation activity (e.g., supporting his engagement on behalf of the initiatives and affiliated entities of the Foundation), to his speech activity (e.g., soliciting speeches and staffing and supporting him on speech travel) to his book activity (e.g., editing his books and arranging and supporting him on book tours) to supporting family/personal needs (e.g., securing in-kind private airplane travel, in-kind vacation stays, and supporting family business and personal needs).”
When Eric Braverman, the Clinton Foundation CEO brought in by Chelsea to implement the Simpson Thacher recommendations, resigned in January 2015, Politico reported that his efforts to implement the Simpson Thacher audit recommendations were thwarted by the conflicting visions of the three Clinton family members and their rival staff factions.
Band did not resign from his various Clinton Foundation board appointments until June 2015, as Hillary Clinton was beginning to organize for her 2016 presidential campaign.
As a parting shot, Band addressed another email to Podesta, with copies to Cheryl Mills and Justin Cooper, dated Nov. 17, 2011. Band charged that while he was required to sign a conflict of interest agreement to be a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, Bill Clinton was required to sign no such document.
Band then objected that Bill Clinton was being personally paid by three Clinton Global Initiative sponsors and that he “gets many expensive gifts from them,” some of which Band asserted Bill Clinton keeps at home.
“I could add 500 examples of things like this,” he added, his resentment at being pushed aside by Chelsea evident.
$2 billion Clinton family empire
Reviewing Band’s memorandum and emails, campaign finance attorney Paul H. Jossey wrote in the Hill that Band had revealed Bill and Hillary Clinton to be “partners in crime.”
Jossey concluded that Band, along with his management consulting company, Teneo, were at the center of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative self-dealing corruption.
“Band served as gatekeeper to all things Bill Clinton,” Jossey wrote. “Those wanting a former president as golf partner ponied up. Requests for Foundation dough followed. Next came Clinton, Inc. – the steady stream of speeches, books, and honorary titles that enriched Bill Clinton.”
Jossey’s point was that Band and Teneo managed the scheme, with huge corporations seeking Clinton’s favor lining up and to get tax-relief and State Department policy decisions that advanced their business opportunities.
Jossey concluded that the WikiLeaks release of the Band memorandum and emails is showing “what we didn’t know” about the internal functioning of the Clinton Foundation $2 billion global empire: that it may just turn out to be criminal.