Donald Trump

Donald Trump to close charity that broke ‘self-dealing’ rules: reports

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 10:14pm

US President Donald Trump will dissolve his charitable foundation – which acknowledged breaking federal rules on “self-dealing” last year – once an investigation concludes, US media reported on Monday.

In December, Trump vowed to close the organisation to avoid any conflicts of interest, after it was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of reports in 2016 by The Washington Post. It was found to have made a political contribution, settled legal conflicts, bought a large portrait of the president and engaged in other questionable practices.

In a new tax filing, the foundation announced its intent to close down, and is seeking approval to distribute the funds remaining in its coffers, NBC News reported.

The Washington Post said one of Trump’s golf courses repaid more than US$158,000 to the foundation for funds used to settle a lawsuit against the club after a man was unable to claim a US$1 million prize.

The Donald J. Trump Foundation said in its tax return for 2016 that it raised US$2.9 million over the course of the year and gave away US$3.1 million – much of it to veterans’ organisations. It received a US$1 million donation from Laura Perlmutter, wife of Marvel Entertainment Chairman Isaac Perlmutter and another from casino magnate Phil Ruffin. Ivanka Trump gave her father’s foundation US$100,000.

The foundation, with assets of under US$1 million, “looks forward to distributing its remaining assets at the earliest possible time to aid numerous worthy charitable organisations”, a spokesman told NBC News. It did not say when it would close or set a deadline to distribute its assets.

The foundation’s practices drew the scrutiny of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who ordered it to cease fundraising in October 2016 until it obtained state licensing.

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman, said the investigation “remains ongoing” and fundraising is suspended following the attorney general’s notice of violation. The foundation “cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete”, Spitalnick said.

In a 2015 tax filing, the foundation acknowledged violating a legal prohibition against “self-dealing” that bars charity leaders from funnelling their charity’s money to themselves, their businesses or their families.

Trump said last year that 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”.

“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,” he said then.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg