New York State Attorney General Letitia James has called for a $5.6 million fine against the Trump Foundation for allegedly spending tax-free charity money on Donald Trump’s personal, business and campaign costs.
The penalty would be in addition to $2.8 million in restitution for misuse of charity funds, said James.
Trump, daughter Ivanka and sons Eric and Donald Jr. agreed to dissolve the controversial foundation late last year after the attorney general’s office filed suit against the charity. The Trumps also granted the AG’s office oversight of disbursement of the remaining $1.7 million in charity funds.
But the lawsuit continued after the family provided no evidence refuting state claims that they failed to meet as a board, oversee expenditures or establish policies to protect the charity’s funds from abuse, James argued in the latest 34-page court papers filed in the case Thursday.
“In this vacuum of oversight and diligence, Mr. Trump caused the foundation to enter repeatedly into self-dealing transactions and to coordinate unlawfully with his presidential campaign,” James said.
Barbara Underwood, who was AG at the time, said investigators had detailed a “shocking pattern of illegality,” and that the Trump Foundation had functioned as “little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”
According to the lawsuit, among several examples of illegal use of charity funds by Trump was a $100,000 payment to settle legal claims for an 80-foot flagpole at Mar-a-Lago. Trump reportedly spent $10,000 in charity funds on a 6-foot portrait of himself that he hung at his golf resort in Doral, Florida. The charity also paid a $25,000 contribution in 2013 to help to re-elect Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who later decided against filing a lawsuit for fraud against Trump University.
Representatives of Trump’s presidential campaign and the charity also illegally plotted to use foundation money to help Trump get elected, the lawsuit claimed, citing foundation emails and statements by charity and campaign representatives. Money raised by the charity to benefit veterans, for example, was doled out to specific organizations at specific times “to influence” Trump’s ‘election for president.’” Checks from the foundation were emblazoned with the Trump campaign logo.
The state’s lawsuit is also seeking a 10-year ban on Trump serving on the board of any New York non-profit organization.
Trump has dismissed the legal action against his foundation as politically motivated:
A week ago, James issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank to seek records linked to four Trump Organization real estate projects and Trump’s failed bid to buy the Buffalo Bills five years ago, The New York Times reported.