Skip to content Skip to footer

Did Trump Use His Foundation to Reward or Punish Attorney Generals?

When controversy over Trump University popped up, Trump thought a few donations could smooth things over.

As a businessman, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has always known that money buys influence, and there’s often a dollar amount that can get a person out of any type of jam. So when issues concerning Trump University — the candidate’s failed for-profit business program — popped up and started gathering legal attention, it shouldn’t shock anyone that Trump thought maybe a few donations could smooth things over. Of course, that was before he became the top of the Republican ticket. Now, they very well could sink him heading into Election Day.

Trump’s interactions with two different Attorney Generals who were investigating lawsuits from irate former students who believed Trump University was a scam full of false advertising and misleading claims couldn’t be more different. In Florida, AG Pam Bondi, who enjoys a cozy relationship with the real estate mogul, eventually dropped the investigation in her state. In New York, where Trump’s dealings with AG Eric Schneiderman were far less comfortable, Trump’s ‘educational’ program is facing prosecution.

Now, media has learned that both Bondi and Schneiderman have seen the appreciation — or wrath — of Trump, via his charity arm The Trump Foundation.

“Donald Trump’s charitable foundation gave $100,000 in 2014 to a conservative activist group that was used to help finance a federal lawsuit against New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — the same public official who was suing the real estate mogul for fraud over the operations of Trump University,” reports Yahoo News. “The size and timing of the donation to the Citizens United Foundation, an arm of the sprawling conservative network run by David Bossie, who is now Trump’s deputy campaign manager, could raise fresh questions about whether Trump has used his tax-exempt charity to further political and personal causes.”

The lawsuit Citizens United fielded against Schneiderman was dismissed by US Judge Sidney H. Stein who said the complaint “states not a single plausible claim upon which relief can be granted.”

Schneiderman’s staff has little doubt that the donation was purposefully made to fund an attack on the New York AG.

“If Donald Trump has proven anything over the past three years, it’s that he’ll do anything to pursue his bizarre but predictable vendetta against this office,” spokesperson Eric Soufer said, according to The Hill. “Funding a meritless lawsuit against this office would be nothing new for someone like Donald Trump, who has filed baseless ethics complaints, planted bogus stories, and tweeted a steady stream of incoherent insults just to make himself feel better for being exposed as the fraud he clearly is.”

The questions behind the timing and intent of Trump’s donations appear especially apparent when looked at in conjunction with his foundation’s donations to Bondi, which are receiving even more scrutiny. Bondi, once considered a possible vice presidential contender for the New York businessman, dismissed the state investigation into Trump University, and soon after received sizable political donations from Trump’s charity organization. While earlier it was claimed that there was nothing improper about the series of events, a recently levied fine has led to more questions about what really went on.

“The controversy whipped back up last week when news emerged that Trump paid a $2,500 fine because his foundation improperly donated $25,000 to Bondi’s political election committee in 2013 (tax-exempt charitable groups are not allowed to make political contributions),” reports Politico. “Following the donation in 2013, Bondi’s office declined to join a fledgling multi-state probe into Trump’s real estate seminar program. The links between the two continued, with Trump hosting a lavish fundraiser for Bondi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in March 2014, and Bondi endorsing Trump in March of this year.”

The biggest critics of this potential payoff has been the local Florida press, which is now demanding answers — and getting none.

“[P]ressed for the name of the staffer who reviewed the Trump University allegations, [Bondi spokesperson Whitney] Ray directed reporters to a file of more than 9,000 pages, offering no further assistance,” reports the Miami Herald. “Trump’s campaign claims the two ‘have a great relationship and have for many years.’ Yet basic questions about the nature of that relationship go unanswered. When did they first meet? How did they meet? Do they socialize? Ray’s response: ‘The Attorney General is unavailable for an interview.'”

Of course the fact that Trump appears to be using his charity as a political arm, buying influence and funding vendettas, isn’t getting nearly the full on media scrutiny that the unsubstantiated claims that Clinton Foundation donations somehow bought influence at the Secretary of State’s office while Hillary Clinton was in that position.

​​Not everyone can pay for the news. But if you can, we need your support.

Truthout is widely read among people with lower ­incomes and among young people who are mired in debt. Our site is read at public libraries, among people without internet access of their own. People print out our articles and send them to family members in prison — we receive letters from behind bars regularly thanking us for our coverage. Our stories are emailed and shared around communities, sparking grassroots mobilization.

We’re committed to keeping all Truthout articles free and available to the public. But in order to do that, we need those who can afford to contribute to our work to do so — especially now, because we have just 2 days left to raise $33,000 in critical funds.

We’ll never require you to give, but we can ask you from the bottom of our hearts: Will you donate what you can, so we can continue providing journalism in the service of justice and truth?