Trump Foundations Shifted Funds to Trump Business Organization

The Donald J. Trump Foundation and Eric Trump Foundation have shifted hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for charity to the Trump Organization, the president’s family business conglomerate, Forbes reports.

Eric Trump, the president's second son, has claimed that because he can use Trump National Golf Club for free,100 percent of the funds raised by his foundation's charity golf tournament go to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to help children with cancer. However, tax filings made by the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities show that the Trump Organization has received payments in the past for the use of the golf course and club — part of more than $1.2 million paid out by the foundation that has no documented recipients beyond the Trump Organization. Two people directly involved in the organizations told Forbes it was Donald J. Trump who specifically ordered that the Trump Organization start billing the Eric Trump Foundation for use of the club.

From 2007 to 2010, the first four years that the Eric Trump Foundation, a public charity, held the golf tournament, total expenses associated with the tournament averaged about $50,000 — not the zero claimed by Eric Trump but in line with what other charities pay to host outings at Trump courses. But tournament expenses jumped to $142,000 in 2011 and to $322,000 by 2015. "In the early years, they weren't being billed [for the club] — the bills would just disappear," said Ian Gillule, who served as membership and marketing director at the golf club at that time. "Mr. Trump had a cow. He flipped. He was like, 'We're donating all of this stuff, and there's no paper trail? No credit?' And he went nuts. He said, 'I don't care if it's my son or not — everybody gets billed.'"

The Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the business interests of its founder, apparently also used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel donations to the Trump Organization. According to Forbes, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made a $100,000 donation to the Eric Trump Foundation to offset costs associated with the golf events, Gillule told Forbes — that is, Donald Trump's foundation, which at the time was receiving gifts from outside donors, made a donation to Eric Trump's foundation so that it could meet its obligations to the Trump Organization. Eric Trump told Forbes that expenses for the tournament were "somewhere around a hundred grand," and his foundation declined to provide details about the $322,000 in costs.

In addition, while the Eric Trump Foundation told donors their money would be used to help sick children, it re-donated more than $500,000 of donors' contributions to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests — including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump golf courses.

"All of this seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors," the Forbes article notes. "It also raises larger questions about the Trump family dynamics and whether Eric and his brother, Don Jr., can be truly independent of their father." Indeed, the year the Eric Trump Foundation's tournament costs nearly tripled, four of its seven original board members who were personal friends of Eric left and were eventually replaced by fourteen new board members, the majority of whom owed all or much of their livelihoods to the Trump Organization.

"You're dealing with people talking about the event and the charity who also at the same time are thinking about it as a corporation and as a business,” said Patrick Langan, former director of golf at the Trump National Golf Club. "It's a for-profit club. You know, they're trying to make money."