A wine industry association. A plastic surgeon gifting nose jobs to kids. An artist who painted a portrait of Donald Trump and a blue dog. Trump-owned golf resorts.
Those are some of the beneficiaries of the Eric Trump Foundation, an eponymous public charity headed by the Republican presidential nominee’s third-born. Though Eric Trump—the executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, and one of his father’s top surrogates and closest political advisers—recently claimed his father had donated “hundreds of thousands” to his charity, the only available evidence seems to suggest payments, in fact, went the other way: the Eric Trump Foundation (ETF) paying hundreds of thousands over the last 10 years to host lavish fundraising events at Donald Trump’s golf courses.
In promotional videos and press releases, ETF touts a 95 to 100 percent donation ratio and implies that by benefit of being a Trump, namesake properties are handed over for charity events at little or no cost. But according to a Daily Beast analysis of annual IRS reports and New York state financial disclosures from the charity’s inception in 2007 to 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, ETF spent $881,779 on its annual Golf Invitational at Trump-owned clubs, a portion of which—$100,000 in 2013 and $88,000 in 2014—was reported as paid directly “to a company of a family member of the Board of Directors.” In other words, Donald Trump himself.
“There’s nothing necessarily wrong with contracting with businesses you own,” said Philip Hackney, an associate professor of law at Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center, and a former employee in the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit.
It becomes problematic, Hackney said, when a charity claims to send 100 percent of donations to an intended beneficiary, but routes some of that money through their own business without fully disclosing that fact to donors.
“There’s a question—maybe not of the legality, but of the ethics of it,” he said.