Trump Foundation

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  • Now That The Trump Foundation Has Admitted To Illegal Activity, Will Fox News Still Ignore President-Elect’s Self-Dealing?

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    A new report from The Washington Post cites recent IRS filings to confirm previous allegations that President-elect Donald Trump’s private charitable foundation engaged in illegal “self-dealing” activities, a story Fox News originally ignored when Trump was the Republican presidential candidate.

    On November 22, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported that the Trump Foundation’s newly available tax filings confirm earlier reports that the foundation had engaged in illegal “self-dealing.”

    Fahrenthold wrote that the foundation’s 2015 filings -- which were made publicly available on the evening of November 21 -- reveal that the foundation had “transferred ‘income or assets’ to a disqualified person,” which could be Trump himself “or a member of his family or a Trump-owned business.” Another section of the filing also revealed that the foundation had checked “yes” to indicate it had “engaged in any acts of self-dealing in prior years.”

    As explained by the Post’s report, these transfers violate “a legal prohibition against ‘self-dealing,’ which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.”

    Fahrenthold first reported on this suspected illegal activity in September. As explained when Fahrenthold originally broke the story, Trump spent $258,000 from the Trump Foundation -- to which he has not personally donated since 2009 -- to settle legal issues involving his for-profit businesses, which Fahrenthold noted on CNN “is against the law.”

    At the time, the Trump campaign denied the allegations, claiming that Fahrenthold’s report was “peppered with inaccuracies and omissions” and that “there was not, and could not be, any intent or motive for the Trump Foundation to make improper payments.” (The statement offered no examples of any inaccuracies in Fahrenthold’s reporting, nor did subsequent surrogates who claimed the reporting was “debunked”.)

    In the day following this breaking story, Fox News devoted a total of just under three minutes to the report, substantially trailing CNN and MSNBC in total coverage. Its flagship evening program, Special Report with Bret Baier, led the network’s race to the bottom in terms of covering the story, devoting just 12 seconds to reporting on the alleged “self-dealing.”

    A Media Matters analysis found that Fox News’ segments on the Post report also offered few details on the investigation. The longest segment Fox devoted to the report was one minute and 41 seconds on The O’Reilly Factor, in which guest host Bret Baier allowed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to dismiss the report uninterrupted for a full minute.

  • ThinkProgress: Trump Has Funded Discredited Right-Wing Activist James O’Keefe Through His Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ThinkProgress has identified a $10,000 donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to Project Veritas, the 501(c)(3) organization run by discredited conservative activist and videographer James O’Keefe.

    O’Keefe has a long history of engaging in criminal, misogynistic, ethically dubious, and bizarre behavior related to his video stunts. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a government office under false pretenses; sought to set up a video “sting” in which he would lure a female CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys and attempt to seduce the reporter on camera; and had to pay a former video target $100,000 and publicly apologize in a legal settlement. O’Keefe’s videos often make a big splash, but they fall apart under scrutiny by reporters and state investigations.

    The Trump campaign has used O’Keefe’s latest dubious and heavily edited videos to support its baseless claim that the election is “rigged” against the Republican candidate, and O’Keefe attended the final presidential debate on October 19 and pushed his videos in spin room interviews after the debate. But as ThinkProgress explained, Trump may have a more direct connection to O’Keefe’s new videos through a $10,000 donation his private charitable foundation made to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in May 2015, barely more than a month before he officially became a Republican candidate for president. Project Veritas’ affiliated 501(c)(4) organization Project Veritas Action, which is more free to engage directly in political matters, is the group that released this week’s videos. From ThinkProgress:

    Trump claimed the videos exposed that a violence at a March Chicago rally was a “criminal act” and that it “was now all on tape started by her.”

    Trump neglected, however, to mention his own connection to the videos, released by James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas tax-exempt group. According to a list of charitable donations made by Trump‘s controversial foundation (provided to the Washington Post in April by Trump’s campaign), on May 13, 2015, it gave $10,000 to Project Veritas.

  • Fox Continues To Ignore Investigative Reporting On The Trump Foundation’s Alleged Illegal Activity

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News spent less than three minutes covering a Washington Post report detailing how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses.” By contrast, CNN spent over 23 minutes on the story, while MSNBC devoted nearly an hour of airtime to the report. Fox News has previously essentially ignored investigations into the Trump Foundation and his business dealings.

    The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported on September 20 that “Trump may have violated laws against ‘self-dealing’ — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.” Trump spent $258,000 from the Trump Foundation -- to which he has not personally donated since 2008 -- to settle legal issues involving his for-profit businesses, which Fahrenthold noted on CNN “is against the law.”

    A Media Matters study found that from the time the story was published around 10:27 a.m. on September 20 through 9:00 a.m. on September 21, when the cable news morning shows ended, Fox News spent two minutes and 58 seconds on the report. CNN spent 23 minutes and 52 seconds on it, while MSNBC devoted 56 minutes and 12 seconds to the report. Fox’s flagship evening news program, Special Report, spent merely 12 seconds on the news.

    Fox News’ segments on the report offered few details on the investigation. The longest segment Fox devoted to the report was one minute and 41 seconds on The O’Reilly Factor, in which guest host Bret Baier allowed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to dispute the report.

    This is not the first time Fox News has omitted coverage of unflattering investigative reports into Trump’s foundation and business practices within a day or two of publication.

    • Fox News entirely ignored a report earlier this month that Trump has apparently broken both the law and IRS rules with his foundation, and he has not donated money to his own foundation since 2008. The report explained that Trump instead lies to other charities and the public by suggesting that the foundation’s donations are his own money. In addition, Trump has spent money from the foundation “to buy himself a gift” on two different occasions..

    • Fox News also failed to cover an illegal campaign contribution from the Trump Foundation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, which “came as Bondi was reviewing whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University,” though she never took any action against Trump U.

    • Fox News also neglected to cover a report from Mother Jones revealing that Trump’s modeling agency, Trump Model Management, “profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here.”

    At the same time, Fox has scandalized reports about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s associated foundation, claiming she engaged in “pay for play” as secretary of state, despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing. Fox’s own reporting has in fact undermined many of these claims.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of Trump and foundation or charity on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN between 10:27 a.m. on September 20 to 9 a.m. on September 21, excluding all mentions that took place between 11 p.m. on September 20 and 5 a.m. on September 21.

  • Sunday News Shows Omit Coverage Of Trump Foundation Investigation, Conflicts Of Interest

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Sunday morning political news programs neglected two major news stories that raise ethical questions about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s family charity and his business interests, including reports that Trump’s charitable foundation is under investigation by the New York Attorney General and the conflicts of interest the Trump Organization would raise in a Trump presidency.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a September 13 CNN interview that his office is investigating Trump’s charitable foundation over concerns that it “engaged in some impropriety” as related to New York charity laws. The investigation launched amid reports from The Washington Post that Trump spent money from his charity on items meant to benefit himself, such as a $20,000 oil painting of himself and a $12,000 autographed football helmet, and also recycled others’ contributions “to make them appear to have come from him” although he “hasn’t given to the foundation since 2008.”

    In Newsweek’s September 23 cover story, Kurt Eichenwald reported that Trump’s business interests “will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” if Trump wins the presidency and does not sever all connections to the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization, Eichenwald reported, has been “largely ignored” by media, yet would cause “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” in nearly all foreign policy decisions a president Trump would make. Eichenwald’s report explains that the Trump Organization’s enterprise includes “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians and even criminals,” and “reveals a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled” which could conflict with major national security decisions and negotiations required by the presidential elect.

    Yet none of the Sunday morning political news shows dedicated substantial coverage to either report on September 18.

    NBC’s Meet The Press briefly alluded to reports that the Trump Organization could pose conflicts of interest without mentioning the Newsweek report directly. Host Chuck Todd asked Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway whether Trump would offer an “explanation of how he will wall off his business so that there are not even illusions or any sort of cloud that would hang over foreign policy decisions and his international business dealings.”

    But ABC’s This Week, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting’s Fox News Sunday, and CBS’ Face the Nation all completely ignored the stories about Trump’s foundation and business empire, even though each featured interviews with Trump surrogates who could have been asked about them. Meet the Press did not reference Trump’s foundation.

    Journalists have been criticized for the “double standard” in the ways they cover Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Earlier this month, cable news programs devoted 13 times more coverage to Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis as The Washington Post’s reporting about the Trump Foundation. This week, both the Trump Foundation and Trump Organization stories were given short shrift by the broadcast news programs in favor of coverage of Donald Trump’s Dr. Oz stunt.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters conducted a SnapStream search for any coverage of both reports on Sunday morning political news shows including: ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face The Nation, NBC’s Meet The Press, Fox Broadcasting’s Fox News Sunday, and CNN’s State of the Union. The search was conducted using search terms “Newsweek,” “Eichenwald,” “Trump Organization,” “Fahrenthold,” “Trump Foundation,” “Trump Charity,” and “Charity.” 

  • STUDY: Cable News Devotes 13 Times As Much Coverage To Clinton Health As Trump Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Cable news networks spent less than an hour in total on September 12 discussing a new investigative report about how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump retooled his charitable foundation to “spend other people’s money.” By contrast, they devoted more than 13 and a half hours of their airtime that day to covering Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health.

    Over the weekend, which marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Clinton fell ill at a memorial event commemorating the victims of the 2001 attack and later revealed she had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier.

    The same weekend, The Washington Post published an investigative report by David Fahrenthold revealing that Trump had “retooled” the Donald J. Trump Foundation to transform it “from a standard-issue rich person’s philanthropy into a charity that allowed a rich man to be philanthropic for free.” The report detailed how Trump has stopped donating to his own foundation, instead filling its coffers with donations from business partners and others; that he uses the money as he pleases, including potentially illegal purchases for himself; that he lies to other charities and the public by suggesting that the foundation’s donations are his own money; and that the foundation has broken both the law and IRS rules.

    On Monday, September 12, the two issues drew immensely disproportionate coverage. CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC devoted 13 hours, 41 minutes, and 41 seconds of combined airtime between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. to discussing Clinton’s pneumonia. The same networks devoted less than an hour of combined airtime to the Post’s revelations about the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

    Among the networks, MSNBC covered Clinton’s health the most with nearly five and a half hours of time devoted to the topic, but much of their evening coverage stood out for devoting substantial time to discussing the history of presidential illnesses, debunking conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health -- which right-wing media have spent months pushing -- and criticizing the media for hyping the story. Several mainstream media outlets, in their frenzied response, declared that the months of conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health had been “vindicated” because Clinton revealed that she had been diagnosed on September 9 with pneumonia.

    Noticeably, Fox News was the only cable news network not to cover the Post’s reporting on Trump’s foundation at all. MSNBC and CNN each gave the story less than half an hour.

    The media’s reporting on the two stories highlights a consistent problem of news outlets failing to adequately cover investigative reports relating to Donald Trump. Broadcast news networks previously chose to dedicate three times more coverage to a flawed AP report about the Clinton Foundation than to an illegal political donation Donald Trump once made to the Florida attorney general through his foundation. Network news morning shows also previously failed to cover an investigative report that revealed Trump’s former campaign manager possibly received illegal payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of Hillary Clinton's health on September 12, 2016, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC using the terms: "(clinton) (health or pneumonia or overheat* or medical or physician or condition)." Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of the Donald J. Trump Foundation on September 12, 2016, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC using the terms: "(Trump AND (Foundation OR Charity))"

  • Florida Reporters: Bondi-Trump Scandal Is “A Big Deal” Worth Serious Media Attention

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Florida-based reporters who have covered the story for years say the scandal surrounding an illegal donation the Trump Foundation gave to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is “a big deal” and well-worth increased national media attention.

    In 2013, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $25,000 to a PAC supporting Bondi’s re-election. As The Washington Post explained, “At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.”

    The story, which has been bubbling in the Florida press on and off for years, picked up steam again this week following news that Trump had to pay an IRS penalty over the donation (charitable groups are barred from donating to political causes), and that Bondi had reportedly “personally solicited” the contribution. 

    Though the controversy has been breaking through to national media, it's still lacking in some important measures -- for example, a Media Matters study showed that the three broadcast networks devoted far more time to hyping a flimsy Associated Press report about supposed Clinton Foundation wrongdoing as they have to the Bondi-Trump story.

    While Trump’s campaign and his supporters say the issue is being overblown, journalists in the Sunshine State call it “a big deal.”

    “There are pieces of this that we and other Florida news outlets have been hitting on since 2013, and when Bondi endorsed Trump in March,” said Michael Auslen, a Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau reporter. “It is fair to raise the question. The timing of the donation was suspect. The donation came in as the attorney general was deciding whether or not to pursue an investigation on Trump University and decided not to. At the very least it looks fishy.”

    Mary Ellen Klas, capital bureau chief for The Miami Herald, agreed.

    “The Trump/Bondi element is something we have focused on. … It is worthy of attention and we don’t feel that the attorney general has answered our questions in any way. She avoids the press,” Klas said in an interview. “It’s one of many important inquiries into the candidates. I think the question should be, ‘what does this say about how they expect elected officials should operate and what does this say about how they would govern?’”

    Dan Sweeney, a legislative reporter for The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, also said the timing of the contribution and Bondi’s actions make it suspect and worth pursuing.

    “It is the timeline,” he said. “You’ve got Pam Bondi personally soliciting a donation from Donald Trump. Weeks later, you have her spokesperson telling The Orlando Sentinel they are considering looking into Trump University. Then the payment to came four days later. The fact that [it’s] one right after the other like that, it raises the question of whether one thing was done in response to the other.”

    The New York Times, which was the focus of criticism from Media Matters and others over its failure to write about the Bondi-Trump scandal, finally featured the story in a September 7 front-page report about Trump’s “decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.”

    “I would say it’s about time,” Sweeney said about the national media attention. “This is an issue that has been written about down here since it happened three years ago. The New York Times is actually late to the game more than anything else.”

    Matt Galka, state politics reporter for Capital News Service, called the story, “a big deal.”

    “I think it is important. It’s a big deal and I think the optics, the timing [are relevant],” he said. “The donation comes in and four days later she says, ‘we’re not going to do it’ raises eyebrows. … It has definitely gotten plenty of [local] attention.”

    Lynn Hatter, news director for the Tallahassee-based Florida Public Radio station WFSU, said the controversy is now “getting the attention that it deserves.” She added, “I think a lot of Florida press is wondering why it took national press so long. A lot of the question has centered on what took you guys so long, we have known about this for a while now."