Trump hasn't made personal contributions to his foundation since 2008
It appears to have functioned as a conduit that disburses money from third parties
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has touted his political contributions as a form of business savviness, boasting that he has “given to everybody” for favors in return.
But when it comes to his own charity – The Donald J. Trump Foundation – the Republican presidential nominee has not donated any money since his last contribution in 2008.
A review of the Trump Foundation’s tax records by CNN finds that although the charity has received more than $4 million in contributions from other organizations and individuals and in turn donated millions to various charitable causes since 2009, Trump has not made any personal contributions to the foundation in that time.
The charity appears to have functioned in recent years as a conduit that disburses money donated by third-parties, such as World Wrestling Entertainment, which donated $1 million in 2009, and $500,000 in 2012 from NBC Universal, the company that contracted Trump’s show “The Apprentice.”
Philanthropy experts describe the practice as irregular since private family foundations traditionally fund charitable causes at least in part through their founder’s personal wealth.
“It’s uncommon for a private foundation with somebody’s name on it to not be receiving contributions from that individual,” said Richard Marker, a philanthropy professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Marker said that although unusual, the practice is not illegal if other requirements are met. He noted that many foundations accept contributions from private individuals and organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has received large sums from investor Warren Buffet, but Marker pointed out that Bill Gates also contributes to the charity.
In recent years, Trump’s foundation has disbursed money to dozens of organizations, some with connections to Trump, such as $100,000 donated in 2012 to the Citizens United Foundation, the foundation arm of Citizens United, whose president, David Bossie, became the Trump campaign’s deputy manager.
Between 2009 and 2010, Trump’s charity donated $150,000 to The Palm Beach Police Foundation, an organization that supports police officers in the Florida county where Trump owns property.
Yet The Washington Post reports Trump earlier went to New Jersey and asked the foundation of deceased businessman Charles Evans for a donation on behalf of the police foundation. Tax records show the Evans foundation donated $150,000 to Trump’s foundation in the years following, in effect covering some of Trump’s charitable contributions to the police organization.
Additionally, The Palm Beach Police Foundation has hosted annual fundraiser balls at Trump’s ritzy Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, yet the police charity paid to rent Trump’s club, such as $276,463 paid to the club in 2014.
In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Trump’s foundation said Trump has donated tens of millions of dollars to charities both through his Foundation and otherwise.
“Mr. Trump serves the Foundation without compensation and additionally makes regular personal contributions to charities and causes of his choosing outside of the Foundation. All in all, the Foundation supports many worthy causes, and the Foundation distributes its funds to get the money into the hands of those in need as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.
Between 2001 and 2008, Trump personally contributed about $2.8 million to his foundation, tax records show.
Scrutiny on Trump’s foundation comes amidst Republican criticism and government watchdog questions surrounding the Clinton Foundation. Trump has called for a special prosecutor to investigate what he says was undue influence over Hillary Clinton’s actions as secretary of state.
While both foundations raise funds for charity, the Clinton Foundation functions as an organization with hundreds of staffers who implement and direct programs in various countries, while the Trump foundation makes contributions to other organizations with their own operations.
The Trump foundation has no paid staffers but lists four members of the Trump family, including Donald, Eric, Ivanka and Donald Jr, along with Trump Organization staffer Allen Weisselberg, as officers.
According to tax filings, the Clinton Foundation had more than $300 million in assets in 2014, compared to more than $1 million held by Trump’s foundation that year.
Still, Janet Camarena, the director of transparency initiatives at the Foundation Center, a nonprofit that analyzes philanthropies, says both of the foundations can be seen as celebrity charities that solicit donations through the large network and name recognition of their founders.
“This can actually be common in the world of celebrity charity. The giving becomes a vehicle of the brand,” Camarena said, drawing the distinction that the Clinton Foundation has stated purposes for its projects while the Trump foundation has not disclosed a particular strategy.
Despite their differences, and in contrast to the tension of the current presidential campaign, Trump’s foundation has donated more than $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.