Donald Trump was forced in May to finally make good on a promise to donate $1 million to charity groups that work to support veterans’ families. But, this was only after being pressured by media groups that insisted on holding The Donald to his word.
Prior to this begrudging gift, however, records show that Trump has honored very few of his charity pledges. While promoting various business ventures, Trump has promised to donate profits from “The Apprentice,” Trump University, several of his books, and other business endeavors. However, according to The Washington Post, Trump has donated less than $10,000 in the last seven years, despite his claims of immense wealth and overwhelming generosity.
During a presidential debate in January, Donald Trump claimed that he raised $6 million for veterans at a fundraising event. But by March, only half of the total Trump claimed had been distributed.
Reporters for the Washington Post attempted to track down the rest of the donations, focusing particularly on the $1 million that Trump claimed he had donated personally. After significant public pressure, Trump finally donated the $1 million, calling the reporter who outed him a “sleaze.”
Following the trail of Donald Trump’s false promises, the Washington Post investigated the presumptive Republican nominee’s record of charity pledges, comparing it carefully to his record of actual cash donations. According to the Washington Post, if Trump had honored every pledge he made, he would have donated over $8.5 million dollars to various non-profit groups and charitable organizations.
Trump frequently brags about his generosity and charitable giving, even participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. He didn’t mention a dollar amount that he planned to donate, but he did dump a bucket of ice water on his head.
However, public records reveal that Trump only donated $2.8 million through the foundation he established to manage his charitable giving. Further searches show that there is no evidence that Trump has personally donated to his own foundation recently, with the last gift on record dating back to 2009.
Since Trump refuses to release his tax returns, something every other presidential candidate has done to increase public trust and ensure transparency, there is no way to confirm any of his claims of charitable donations.
One Trump staffer, campaign press secretary Hope Hicks, told BuzzFeed News:
‘He makes contributions personally and there’s no way for you to know or understand what those gifts are or when they are made.’
Trump claims that an IRS tax audit prevents him from releasing his tax returns, a claim that the IRS denies.
Hicks has refused to answer any questions put forth by The Washington Post, since Trump has banned the respected news organization from covering his campaign events.
Further research into Trump’s history of charitable donations by the paper included records searches reaching back to the 1980s and contacting a number of charities and non-profits associated with the candidate. This research has revealed that although Trump has made frequent promises to donate to a wide variety of causes, his follow-up on actually handing over cash has been less than stellar.
According to the Washington Post, Trump promised to donate royalties from his first book to AIDS and MS charities, but records reveal that he donated more to his daughter’s ballet school than either of those charities.
The news organization contacted 167 charities to track Donald Trump’s personal donations from 2008 to 2016, and it appears that his follow-through on pledges has become even more mythical in recent years. The charities queried were those with some connection to the candidate — Trump had appeared at one of their fundraisers, had praised them publicly, or had donated foundation money to their cause.
Contrary to Hicks’ statement that Trump made “contributions personally,” research revealed that only one charitable donation during that eight-year timespan came from Trump’s own pocket: Trump donated less than $10,000 to the Police Athletic League of New York City in 2009.
Although the $3.8 million Donald Trump actually donated to charity between 2001 and 2016 is a respectable sum, it doesn’t compare well with other philanthropists in his tax bracket, and it certainly doesn’t correlate with what he claims he gives.
For example, Trump claimed that proceeds from “The Art of the Deal” would mean “four or five million” for AIDS, MS, and veterans’ charities.
In addition to book royalties, Milton Bradley released “Trump, the Game” in 1989, a complete tabletop tank that Trump estimated would provide $20 million for charitable causes. Trump lauded the launch of the product, calling himself “an agent for charities,” and even the television commercial for the board game boasted that proceeds would be donated to good causes. The game didn’t sell, but Trump claimed that he still managed to make $880,000 from it.
Trump claimed that royalty checks from Milton Bradley and other publishers and merchandisers would be signed over to the Donald J. Trump Foundation accounts for later disbursement. This is the foundation he established in 1987 to manage charitable donations from book, game, and other business ventures.
However, during some tough financial times in the 1990s, public records show that royalty deposits to this foundation slowed and then eventually stopped completely. Records from 1991 show no royalty deposits from Donald Trump, so presumably any royalties or licensing fees from the game or books remained in Trump’s personal coffers.
Donald Trump also appears to have misled the public in regard to which charities benefited from his donations and to what degree. Although he specifically named AIDS, MS, and veterans’ charities as the prime beneficiaries of his “The Art of the Deal” proceeds, records show that very little of those proceeds actually ended up being donated to those causes.
Of the $1.9 million donated through the Donald J. Trump Foundation from 1987 to 1991, only $6,450 was donated to AIDS research and $4,250 to multiple sclerosis research. Tax records show that $101,000 was donated to veterans’ groups, but only 7 percent of the foundation’s total donations were actually donated to the causes that Trump named.
It was discovered that the bulk of the foundation’s charities ended up in the purses of high-society causes, his alma mater, and a foundation for indigent real estate brokers.
The School of American Ballet, which his daughter Ivanka attended, received a donation of $16,750 from the foundation. The private school his son, Eric, attended received $40,000 in Trump foundation donations.
And Donald Trump continues to weave lies about his financial worth, generosity, and accountability: Following up on a recent claim that he had donated $102 million over the past five years, The Washington Post discovered that the dollar amount was nothing more than the estimated worth of land-use right and free rounds of golf at Trump resorts.
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