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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

 

Living in Griftopia

by Tom Sullivan

A writer for Forbes once cautioned about charitable giving, "At the most elementary level, avoid all celebrity or athlete charities. Almost without exception, these are dodges set up to avoid paying taxes and employ deadbeat relatives while posturing to make themselves look noble."

The man knows whereof he speaks.

The AP reported back in December that there was something amiss about Eric Trump's charitable foundation:

The AP found that Eric Trump has exaggerated the size of his foundation and the donations it receives. At the same time, the charity’s payments for services or donations to other groups repeatedly went to one of Donald Trump’s private golf clubs and to charities linked to the Trumps by corporate, family or philanthropic relationships.

The Eric Trump Foundation has raised $7.3 million mostly for children ill with cancer, according to IRS filings since 2007. The charity has long raised money from donors willing to make large contributions to hobnob with the Trumps. For example, golf at the foundation’s chief 2015 fundraiser cost up to $50,000 per foursome. Donald Trump often attends these events, which include a gala dinner, and mixes with the guests and has his photo taken.
The best part is, Eric Trump told Forbes, "We get to use our assets 100% free of charge." Well, not exactly.

Forbes backed up its earlier caution about such charities yesterday with more detail about the Eric Trump Foundation. As costs inexplicably escalated for the annual golf event – tripling in 2011 – Daddy Trump became irate that junior was using his golf course for free:
In the early years, they weren't being billed [for the club]--the bills would just disappear," says Ian Gillule, who served as membership and marketing director at Trump National Westchester during two stints from 2006 to 2015 and witnessed how Donald Trump reacted to the tournament's economics. "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.' "
If Donald Trump can't look noble and/or take a tax credit, somebody's going to pay him. Not that Donald Trump isn't charitable, Forbes continues:
Shortly before the spike in costs, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation--a gift explicitly made, according to Gillule, to offset the increased budget. Thus, the Eric Trump donors were still seeing their money go to work for kids along the same lines as previous years.

The Eric Trump Foundation declined to comment on that donation. In effect, though, this maneuver would appear to have more in common with a drug cartel's money-laundering operation than a charity's best-practices textbook. That $100,000 in outside donations to the Donald J. Trump Foundation (remember: Trump himself didn't give to his own foundation at this time) passed through the Eric Trump Foundation--and wound up in the coffers of Donald Trump's private businesses.
Trump Sr. has a documented history of self-dealing in regards to his charities. As I said recently regarding Russia, follow the money laundering.

Trump's objective as president is to make himself look good and to boost the value of his brand. Actually accomplishing anything comes not second, but third behind making money.

Haven't passed any substantive bills? No problem. Hold an official-looking signing ceremony. Smile for the cameras. On Monday, Trump announced his support for privatizing the federal air traffic control system.* So he held a signing ceremony.

Steve Benen explains:
It had all the trappings of a major bill-signing ceremony – Trump even surrounded himself with Republican members of Congress, who were only too pleased to accept ceremonial pens – except the president didn’t sign any legislation. There wasn’t even an executive order. Time magazine reported that a White House aide told reporters Trump had signed a “a decision memo and letter transmitting legislative principles to Congress.”

A “decision memo” doesn’t really exist in any formal sense; it’s just a document in which the president announced he’s decided to support an idea. The “letter transmitting legislative principles,” in this case, was Trump’s way of asking Congress to do something.

In other words, Trump World put on a show yesterday – part of a public-relations kickoff of the White House’s purported interest in infrastructure – which signified practically nothing.
As for boosting his brand, Trump's grifts are stripping the gilt off his chairs. Four major law firms declined to represent him in the Russia investigations. He can't fill ambassadorships; candidates suddenly have someplace else to be. And having Trump administration on your resume isn't looking too good for Trump staffers' future prospects.


Eric Trump insists in no way did the Trumps profit from the payments. Fahrenthold is waiting for clarification on what he meant by no profit.

* Privatization is code for stripping America for parts.