Friday, August 17 , 2018, 8:43 pm | Fair 70º

 
 
 
 

Dick Polman: Crooked Donald Trump’s Slush Fund and the 2016 Double Standard

Yes, folks, it’s time for another episode of “Imagine The Outcry!”

Imagine the outcry if Hillary Clinton was outed for taking more than a quarter-million dollars in other people’s money — donations to the Clinton Foundation, donations that were intended to be used for charitable purposes — and spent it instead on herself, in a breach of federal tax laws, in order to settle all kinds of lawsuits filed against her. And to buy several paintings of herself.

Well. We know what would happen. Donald Trump would cite that as fresh evidence of Clinton crookedness, Democrats would double down on what they do best (panic), the pitiable Trump trolls would drag their knuckles on their keyboards, and the cable networks would feature wall-to-wall coverage not seen on the airwaves since that Malaysian plane vanished from radar.

I’m referring, of course, to the latest revelation from David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, who has been digging deep all year into Trump’s charitable work (or lack thereof), and repeatedly exposing the Republican presidential nominee as a fraud.

Fahrenthold — a cinch finalist for next year’s Pulitzer Prize — is the guy who recently outed Trump for taking money from his Donald J. Trump Foundation and funneling it to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (an illegal campaign contribution; nonprofit organizations are barred from such giving), and shortly thereafter Bondi decided not to investigate phony Trump University’s bilking of Florida consumers.

Anyway, his new article — which shows us copies of the relevant receipts — is potentially the most damaging of all (or should be, if facts still matter), because it’s so easily summarized in ways that anyone can understand: Trump took other people’s money in apparent violation of the law, and spent it on himself.

The Donald J. Trump Foundation is supposed to make contributions to charitable causes. Trump himself hasn’t donated a penny to the foundation since 2009; whatever money it has comes from outside donors.

But it’s clear from the available records that Trump’s favorite charitable cause is himself.

In 2014 he took $10,000 from the foundation’s coffers and spent it on a portrait of himself, just a few years after he took $20,000 and spent it on a different portrait of himself.

And because he gets sued a lot (big surprise), he has settled a number of these lawsuits by taking money from the foundation.

Basically, he has used it as his personal slush fund.

Using a nonprofit charitable foundation to pay off one’s personal obligations (or, in the case of the portraits, to indulge one’s personal narcissism) is known in the tax laws as “self-dealing," and it’s apparently against the law to do it.

During the first debate on Sept. 26, it would be nice if Trump were asked about all this.

Why does he presumably believe he did not break the law? Why won’t he release his tax returns, as every other nominee has done these last 40 years? Does he fear that the public would discover more instances of self-dealing?

And would he not condemn Clinton if she were found to have engaged in exactly the same behavior? By what right does he get to benefit from the prevailing double standard?

Of course, the odds that he gets asked any of those questions is approximately zero.

But perhaps we can content ourselves with Team Trump’s hilarious responses to the self-dealing story. Top flack Jason Miller declared, “In typical Washington Post fashion, they’ve gotten their facts wrong” — without contesting, much less disproving, a single specific fact in the story.

Miller also insisted that Trump is “generous” with his money, without once addressing the thrust of the story, which is that Trump hasn’t been generous with his own foundation since 2009, and instead pays for lawsuits and portraits and toys (a $12,000 autographed football) with other people’s money.

But the best part was when Kellyanne Conway played a shrink on CNN and suggested that Fahrenthold “seems a little obsessed with Donald Trump these days.”

Fahrenthold promptly responded on Twitter. Trump, he pointed out, happens to be “a major party’s nominee for president.”

And of all the facts, that one is still the most horrific.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia, a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania and is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @DickPolman1. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >