Donald Trump’s fundraiser for the vets might have crossed the line. Based on this IRS fact sheet on 501c(3)s, organizations like the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which is a 501c(3), have lots of restrictions put on them. For instance, the fact sheet states “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.”
What happened Thursday night at Drake University was a campaign event. Mr. Trump billed it as such. Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum attended. They were paraded in front of the audience. Mr. Trump held this event with the stated intent of pulling viewers away from the Fox News/Google GOP Debate and to keep his profile high without attending the debate.
Worst of all, Mr. Trump negotiated with Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, demanding that Fox donate $5,000,000 to the Trump Foundation in exchange for Mr. Trump attending the debate. Fox refused.
As it turned out, Trump’s threat fizzled. The Fox News/Google GOP Presidential Debate drew the second-biggest audience in Fox News history, attracting 12,500,000 viewer. That fact, journalists opined, is likely to get under Mr. Trump’s skin because the last debate with Mr. Trump in it drew a similar-sized audience.
Trump showed why he is a formidable political force, throwing together on 48 hours notice a competing rally and launching the DonaldTrumpForVets website (adorned with cheesy stock photos and not much else) and asked Americans to donate to his personal 501c3, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which would in turn distribute monies to deserving—but unnamed—veterans groups.
Here’s what ties the event and campaign together:
Donald Trump throws a grand old party
No one ever really doubted that Donald Trump could pull off a major counter-programming feat — even when competing with a GOP debate that was expected to draw millions of viewers.
He did it Thursday night, dazzling a crowd of hundreds of enthusiastic supporters by announcing that he had raised more than $6 million for veterans in one day — $1 million of it from his own checkbook. “We love our vets,” he said.
Mr. Trump highlighted the event on his campaign website. This likely won’t draw a big fine from the IRS but it’s still a violation of the rules governing 501(c)(3)s:
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.
Those instructions are so straightforward that Donald Trump, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee should be able to follow them.