Examiner was one of the first news outlets that questioned whether the fundraiser that Donald Trump put together to benefit veterans was legal. Weeks after the fundraiser, that question remains unanswered. The bad news is that it doesn’t look that veterans organizations will get their answer anytime soon. This article highlights the fact that few checks have made it to veterans’ organizations. That’s the bad news. The worst news is that it doesn’t look like the Donald J. Trump Foundation is running the operation.
According to the article, Michael Warren of the Weekly Standard “contacted the Donald J. Trump Foundation by email with a few questions about how the $6 million had been or was being disbursed. Five minutes later, I received a phone call from Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s presidential campaign manager. Lewandowski said a list of the recipients had been made public and that more recipients were being added all the time.” That’s alarming. Mr. Lewandowski is Trump’s campaign manager. The Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization.
This IRS fact sheet is quite explicit in its instructions to 501(c)(3) organizations:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.
This isn’t the first time a Trump for President employee has gotten tangled up in the disbursement of money raised at the Trump fundraiser:
Liberty House was picked by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to be the recipient of some of the money raise at Mr. Trump’s Iowa fundraiser for vets. What’s interesting is that Liberty House was contacted by a Trump campaign staffer, who told Liberty House executive director Keith Howard that Mr. Trump wanted to publicly present a 6-figure check to Liberty House at a campaign rally.
Naturally, Mr. Howard refused because he thought that “appearing at a political rally could jeopardize his group’s nonprofit status, something a call to an expert in the state attorney general’s office confirmed. And he found it strange that the call was coming from a Trump campaign staffer, rather than someone related to the foundation that raised money for veterans.”
This isn’t how legitimate 501(c)(3)s are run. The Trump Foundation should have a full-time staff that handles the disbursement of checks to the organizations it supports. It’s clear that isn’t the case. What’s clear is that employees of Mr. Trump’s campaign organization have responded to requests for information directed to the Trump Foundation.
It’s equally clear that someone from Trump’s presidential campaign called a legitimate veterans organization (Liberty House, which is a properly run 501(c)(3) organization) with the promise of receiving a check from the Trump Foundation in exchange for being an on-stage prop at a Trump for President campaign rally.
Liberty House and Keith Howard, their executive director, should be commended for being men of integrity and for obeying the law. Mr. Howard didn’t cave to the enticement of a contribution that Liberty House will likely put to good use. He steered clear of the campaign event and he’s getting the check.
Mr. Trump’s Foundation has some structural issues it needs to straighten out quickly or it will risk losing its 501(c)(3) status.