The Eric Trump Foundation [EFT] is, on the surface, a wonderful organization. No paid staff for the organization exists, not even Trump’s son, Eric is paid for work there. All of the staff are volunteers who donate their time to charity, and with good reason. The charity does some wonderful things.
‘Eric Trump’s charity has, over the last 10 years according to its tax reports, raised $6.5 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a beloved Tennessee-based nonprofit that treats children with catastrophic diseases free-of-charge. That figure nearly doubles, when you include the year-long fundraisers utilizing Trump hotels—where guests are encouraged to donate and buy special services, a percentage of which goes to St. Jude—and employees, who both contribute their money and volunteer their time by competing in company-wide contests and organizing events like car washes, bake sales, and walk-a-thons, to raise cash that goes straight to the hospital—over $600,000 this past year, according to ETF’s executive director, Paige Scardigli.’
With all that philanthropy going on, what could possibly be wrong with the foundation? According to Philip Hackney, associate professor of law at Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center, and a former employee in the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit, the problem is in the foundation’s ethics.
The Eric Trump Foundation’s donors are told through press releases and promotional videos that the charity they’re donating to has a 95 to 100 percent donation ratio, meaning that nearly every penny goes directly to the organizations that the foundation supports, such as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
However, the Daily Beast reports that:
‘[In an] analysis of annual IRS reports and New York state financial disclosures from the charity’s inception in 2007 to 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, ETF spent $881,779 on its annual Golf Invitational at Trump-owned clubs, a portion of which—$100,000 in 2013 and $88,000 in 2014—was reported as paid directly “to a company of a family member of the Board of Directors.” In other words, Donald Trump himself.’
In other words, significant amounts of donor money are directly benefiting the Trump family. The means by which this is happening, Hackeny explains, is not exactly illegal. It isn’t, say, using donor money to donate to the political campaign of a Florida attorney general who subsequently dropped a state investigation into one of your sham businesses.
It is, however, unethical. When donors are not fully informed that a charity will be routing their money through their own or a family member’s business, a question of ethics arises.
It seems the apple doesn’t fall all that far from the tree.
For more on a comparison of the Eric Trump Foundation to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, see video below:
Featured image via Getty/Alex Wong