Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Missing from Trump’s list of charitable giving: His own personal cash

By David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman April 10, 2016

Since the first day of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has said that he gave more than $102 million to charity in the past five years.

To back up that claim, Trump’s campaign compiled a list of his contributions — 4,844 of them, filling 93 pages.

But, in that massive list, one thing was missing.

Not a single one of those donations was actually a personal gift of Trump’s own money.

Instead, according to a Washington Post analysis, many of the gifts that Trump cited to prove his generosity were free rounds of golf, given away by his courses for charity auctions and raffles.


In addition, many of the gifts on the list came from the charity that bears his name, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which didn’t receive a personal check from Trump from 2009 through 2014, according to the most recent public tax filings. Its work is largely funded by others, although Trump decides where the gifts go.

Some beneficiaries on the list are not charities at all: They included clients, other businesses and tennis superstar Serena Williams.


In the early years of his career — when Trump was making a name as America’s human embodiment of success — he was known for acts of real, and well-publicized, philanthropy.

In 1986, Trump heard about a Georgia farmer who’d committed suicide because of an impending foreclosure. He reached out.

“He said, ‘Forget it. I’ll pay it off.’ He paid for it out of his personal money,” said Betsy Sharp, the daughter of the farmer, Leonard Hill III. Trump flew the family to Trump Tower to burn the hated mortgage in front of TV cameras, with an ebony cigarette lighter that said “New York.”


Trump’s list was also riddled with apparent errors, in which the “charities” that got his gifts didn’t seem to be charities at all.

Trump listed a donation to “Serena William Group” in February 2015, valued at exactly $1,136.56. A spokeswoman for the tennis star said she had attended a ribbon-
cutting at Trump’s Loudoun County, Va., golf course that year for a new tennis center. But Trump hadn’t donated to her charity. Instead, he had given her a free ride from Florida on his plane and a free framed photo of herself.


The most expensive charitable contributions on Trump’s list, by contrast, dealt with transactions related to real estate.

For one, Trump counted $63.8 million of unspecified “conservation easements.” That refers to legal arrangements — which could bring tax breaks — in which a landowner agrees to forgo certain kinds of development on land that he owns. In California, for example, Trump agreed to an easement that prevented him from building homes on a plot of land near a golf course. But Trump kept the land, and kept making money off it. It is a driving range.


In this election, neither of Trump’s Republican rivals — Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) nor Ohio Gov. John Kasich — has detailed his recent charitable giving. Among the Democrats, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said she and her husband gave 11 percent of their yearly income, and the Clintons have also established a foundation that has collected $2 billion for charity around the world, while also increasing their global celebrity and political network. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) said he gave 5 percent of his yearly income.


“He’s using [the foundation] as a kind of checkbook, with other people’s money,” Leslie Lenkow­sky, a faculty member at Indiana University’s school of philanthropy, said after The Post described the recipients of the Trump Foundation’s gifts.


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