Trump Foundation Admits to Self-Dealing Violations

The Donald J. Trump Foundation, the private foundation established by President-elect Donald Trump, indicated in its 2015 filing with the Internal Revenue Service that it violated a legal prohibition against "self-dealing," the Washington Post reports.

In the section of the Trump Foundation's 2015 Form 990-PF where the foundation is asked to indicate whether it transferred income or assets to a disqualified person or persons — a category that can include the foundation’s leadership, related businesses, or the founding donor's family members — the form was checked "yes." On another line, the foundation indicated it also had engaged in self-dealing in previous years. Such violations can carry penalties, and the foundation's leaders can be required to repay money that it spent on their own behalf. Whether the foundation has already been assessed or paid penalties related to self-dealing, however, is unclear. The Trump Foundation was established nearly thirty years ago and had not previously admitted to such a violation.

In its latest 990-PF, the foundation also listed gifts from an entity controlled by Trump, the first such donation to the foundation in six years. They include a donation of $566,370 from the Trump Corporation, an entity 100 percent owned by Trump, and a $50,000 gift from Trump Productions, a Trump-owned business that produced The Apprentice. In addition, the foundation reported a $150,000 gift from the foundation of Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate who supports closer ties between Ukraine and Western countries and who pledged a number of large gifts to the Clinton Foundation when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Those gifts raised questions about potential conflicts of interest arising from Clinton's meetings with Pinchuk. A spokesperson for the Pinchuk Foundation told the Post that the gift to the Trump Foundation was made as part of an agreement for Trump to speak via video link to a conference Pinchuk organized in September 2015 dedicated to Ukraine’s geopolitical position in Europe and the world; Trump had already declared his intention to run for president at the time of the speech.

Marcus Owens, a former head of the exempt-organizations division at the IRS, told the Post that the Pinchuk gift to the Trump Foundation was unusual and the first from a non-U.S. national who might seek to influence foreign policy in a Trump administration. "The contribution," Owens added, "points out a potential way for foreign donors to align themselves with [Trump]."