We are constantly told by the Trumpers that Hillary’s abuse of the Clinton Foundation is worse than Trump’s self-dealing with the Trump Foundation, because Hillary Clinton used her charity for political purposes, exchanging political influence for donations.
Guess what? It appears Mr. The Donald has done exactly the same thing in reverse: using his charity to buy political influence for a presidential campaign. The piece opens by describing how Trump, exploring a 2012 presidential run, was courting a “particularly vocal and influential critic” named Oran Smith:
During their meeting in Trump’s office, they discussed Christian faith and religious liberty. Smith was struck by “a different Donald Trump than I expected.” On his way out the door, Smith asked that Trump consider donating to the Palmetto Family Council.
“He was never heavy-handed about any quid pro quo,” Smith said.
But Trump delivered.
“It was a quiet donation that came with a simple cover letter,” Smith said. It read: “Great meeting with you and your wife in my office,” dated May 6, 2011. Enclosed was a check for $10,000 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
That check is one of at least several donations to suggest Trump used his private foundation, funded by outside donors, to launch and fuel his political ambitions. Such contributions, if they were made solely for Trump’s benefit, could violate federal self-dealing laws for private foundations.
Thanks to the intrepid work of David Farenthold at the Washington Post, we already know that Trump used his charity as a piggy bank to pay off debts incurred by his businesses. But now we know that he also raided the Trump Foundation to get coveted speaking slots that would raise his profile as a possible presidential contender:
From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation’s tax filings found. In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.
Although sources familiar with the thinking behind the donations cautioned that Trump did not explicitly ask for favors in return for the money, they said the contributions were part of a deliberate effort by Trump to ingratiate himself with influential conservatives and brighten his political prospects.
Trumpers who claim to be concerned by Hillary Clinton’s political use of the Clinton Foundation can’t disregard this. Either using a charity for your political advancement is wrong, or it isn’t. (Hint: it is.)
Again and again I see the argument from Trumpers: has Trump abused his political power like Clinton has? And the correct answer is no . . . not yet. Because he hasn’t had the chance.
But everything about him shows that, if you give him that power, he will abuse it.