A drip, drip, drip of news paints an ominous picture of Donald Trump's targeted contributions to politicians investigating him during his business career.
In September 2013, Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that Florida would be “reviewing the allegations” in a class-action lawsuit filed in New York against Trump University, which has been accused of fraud by people who paid to attend seminars.
Days after Bondi made the announcement, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution to “And Justice for All,” a campaign group backing Bondi’s re-election. Bondi subsequently announced she would not be pursuing an investigation into alleged fraud against Trump University, citing “insufficient grounds” to proceed.
In 2014, after New York State Attorney Eric Schneiderman brought a class-action suit against Trump University, the Trump Foundation gave $100,000 to the conservative activist group Citizens United Foundation, which was bringing a federal lawsuit against Schneiderman.
The Citizens United Foundation was “an arm of the sprawling conservative network run by David Bossie, who is now Trump’s deputy campaign manager.”
A review of tax returns filed by the Trump Foundation shows that the 2014 donation to Bossie’s Citizens United Foundation was by far the largest it gave to any organization that year, substantially exceeding its contributions to more traditional charities, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (which got $50,000), the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ($25,000) and the Police Athletic League ($25,000).
It was also the first time the Citizens United Foundation had ever received funding from Trump’s charity.
While the donation to Bossie’s group has been mentioned in some media accounts, what has gone unnoticed until now is a major project of Citizens United at the time: a lawsuit it filed that year — since dismissed by a federal judge — against Schneiderman, New York’s Democratic attorney general, over his efforts to require nonprofit groups such as Citizens United to disclose the identity of their donors under seal to the New York State Charities Bureau.
In 2013 and 2014, Trump made two donations, totaling $35,000, to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign, after Abbott quietly dropped an investigation of “possibly deceptive trade practices” following Trump University’s agreement to cease operations in Texas.
Doesn't look like he's been very active at the state level. pic.twitter.com/1m6GyHjE1Q
— David Saleh Rauf (@davidSrauf) June 2, 2016
These three circumstances constitute a demonstrable pattern. And it’s a pattern of the very sort of pay-for-play corruption that Hillary Clinton’s opponents and their corporate media enablers were insinuating was an issue for her with regard to the Clinton Foundation. But they are looking at the wrong candidate and the wrong foundation.
Florida editorial boards are now calling for federal investigators to probe the Trump Foundation’s donation to Bondi. That’s a good start.
Trump may have to adopt “crooked” as his own moniker.
UPDATE (9/11/16): The Washington Post describes the unusual arrangement between Trump and his foundation:
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.
For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.
Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.
— Barry Ritholtz (@ritholtz) September 11, 2016