Home 2019 Elections Donald Trump’s Pay to Play Scandal: What We Know

Donald Trump’s Pay to Play Scandal: What We Know


From the Clinton campaign:

Donald Trump’s Pay to Play Scandal: What We Know
Trump University – Donald Trump’s fake, get-rich-quick scheme that bilked more than 5,000 students out of $40 million – is back in the news this week after reports that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi declined to investigate the scam after soliciting a $25,000 donation from Donald Trump.

The Washington Post recently revealed that Trump used funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to make a campaign donation in violation of federal rules and was forced to pay a fine to the IRS.

HEADLINE: “Trump pays IRS a penalty for his foundation violating rules with gift to aid Florida attorney general” [Washington Post, 9/1/16]
  • Washington Post: “Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump’s company said, after it was revealed that Trump’s charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida’s attorney general.” [Washington Post,9/1/16]
The Trump Foundation tried to cover up their inappropriate contribution by claiming the money went to the wrong organization. However, the IRS saw right through that excuse.
  • Washington Post: “The foundation told the IRS that it had given $25,000 to a third group, a charity in Kansas with a similar name, ‘Justice for All.’ In fact, the Trump Foundation had not actually sent the Kansas group any money.  This new, incorrect listing had the effect of camouflaging the prohibited gift. Trump’s CFO said that the listing of the Kansas group was another mistake, made by the foundation’s accountants.” [Washington Post, 9/1/16]
Prior to receiving the $25,000 donation, Bondi had received complaints from more than 20 people that had been defrauded by Trump University.
Associated Press: “All told, more than 20 people requested help from the Florida attorney general’s office in obtaining refunds from Trump University and affiliates, with Bondi’s predecessor receiving numerous other complaints about the seminar company Trump partnered with. Many of the Trump-related consumers alleged that they paid money for training materials and personalized instruction which were never delivered.” [Associated Press, 6/6/16]
  • Associated Press: “‘I was laid off work for the first time in my life and really need this money to support my family,’ wrote one of the many people seeking help, adding that he had been promised a refund but never received it. ‘$1,400 is so much money for my family.’” [Associated Press, 6/6/16]
On September 13, 2013, her office revealed that it was examining a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General of New York over Trump University to decide whether it join the suit.
Orlando Sentinel: “But now Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is reviewing the New York lawsuit’s allegations, to determine whether Florida should join the multi-state case, a spokeswoman for the Republican attorney general said Wednesday.” [Orlando Sentinel, 9/13/13]

Several weeks before her office said publicly that it was considering an investigation, Bondi solicited a contribution from Trump.

Associated Press: “Reichelderfer told AP that Bondi spoke with Trump ‘several weeks’ before her office publicly announced it was deliberating whether to join a lawsuit proposed by New York’s Democratic attorney general. […] ‘The process took at least several weeks, from the time they spoke to the time they received the contribution,’ Reichelderfer told AP.” [Associated Press, 6/6/16]

Trump at first claimed he never spoke to Bondi, but her office said that that wasn’t true.  Trump’s spokesman later confirmed they did speak.

Washington Post: “Marc Reichelderfer — who worked as a consultant on Bondi’s reelection effort — told the Associated Press in June that Bondi spoke with Trump and solicited the donation herself.” [Washington Post,9/5/16]
TRUMP: “I never spoke to her, first of all… Never spoken to her about it. Never.” [Washington Post, 9/5/16]
Associated Press: “Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks clarified details of the conversation one day after the Republican presidential candidate said he never spoke to Bondi about the issue, without providing specifics. […] ‘I don’t think this was a lengthy, memorable call, Hicks said. Mr. Trump talks to a hundred people in any given day. So, I don’t know if I will be able to provide that information. That’s not exactly a realistic or reasonable request.’” [AP, 9/6/16]

On September 17, 2013, just four days after Bondi’s office announced it was looking into joining the lawsuit against Trump University, the Donald J. Trump Foundation — a charitable entity — sent a check to the committee associated with Bondi’s re-election campaign.

Associated Press: “The money came from a Trump family foundation in apparent violation of rules surrounding political activities by charities. A political group backing Bondi’s re-election, called And Justice for All, reported receiving the check Sept. 17, 2013 — four days after Bondi’s office publicly announced she was considering joining a New York state probe of Trump University’s activities, according to a 2013 report in the Orlando Sentinel.” [Associated Press, 6/6/16]

After receiving Trump’s check, Attorney General Bondi dropped the Trump University inquiry entirely.

Associated Press: “After the check came in, Bondi’s office nixed suing Trump, citing insufficient grounds to proceed.” [Associated Press, 6/6/16]

After dropping that investigation, Trump hosted a $3,000-a-person fundraiser for Bondi at his Mar-A-Lago hotel, that he offered for rent at a highly discounted price.

HEADLINE: “Trump Held Fundraiser For Pam Bondi At Mar-a-Lago After She Dropped Investigation” [Huffington Post, 9/6/16]
Washington Post: “Last night, the Huffington Post reported that not only did Trump give Bondi that donation, a few months later he hosted a $3,000-a-person fundraiser for her reelection at his Mar-a-Lago resort. And he gave her what he might call a fantastic deal: While this year he has charged his campaign $140,000 every time it uses the mansion for an event, the Republican Party of Florida paid Mar-a-Lago less than $5,000 for Bondi’s fundraiser.” [Washington Post, 9/7/16]

When the Trump Foundation was notified that a watchdog group and the Washington Post were looking into the improper donation, Trump refunded his Foundation – but didn’t take the money back from Bondi.

Washington Post: “Trump’s business said it was unaware of any of these mistakes until March, when it heard from the watchdog group and The Post. On Thursday, Jeffrey McConney — senior vice president and controller at the Trump Organization — said […] that Trump had also personally reimbursed the Trump Foundation for $25,000, covering the full value of the improper gift. McConney blamed a series of mistakes, all of them unintentional. McConney said there had been no attempt to deceive.” [Washington Post, 9/1/16]
Washington Post: “Although Trump has apparently reimbursed the foundation, ‘that’s not the same,’ said Jordan Libowitz, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. ‘It’s about getting the money back from the organization that wasn’t allowed to have it in the first place.’  So far, that hasn’t happened.  In fact, the treasurer of Bondi’s political group said that she had actually tried to send the money back, without success.  ‘I wrote a check, sent it via FedEx. I received a call from the Trump Foundation, saying that they had declined to accept the refund,’ said Nancy Watkins in an interview with The Post. She said this had happened in the spring, after she learned that the Trump Foundation was not allowed to make political gifts.  Watkins said she was told, ‘Mr. Trump had reimbursed the foundation with a personal check. And that was the end of it.’” [Washington Post, 9/1/16]

In Texas, something similar occurred.  Attorney General Greg Abbott dropped an investigation into Trump University and then received a $35,000 campaign contribution to his gubernatorial race.

Associated Press: “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott received a $35,000 donation to his successful gubernatorial campaign from Donald Trump. This after a Texas probe into Trump University was dropped in 2010, according to the Associated Press.” [AP, 6/2/16]
  • Associated Press: “The AP reported that Abbott, a Republican, was serving as Texas Attorney General at the time, and opened a civil investigation of ‘possibly deceptive trade practices’ into Trump University, but quietly dropped it when the organization agreed to end its operations in Texas.  Trump subsequently donated $35,000 to Abbott’s successful gubernatorial campaign, according to records obtained by the AP.” [AP, 6/2/16]
Trump’s former employee admitted Trump engaged in pay-to-play to protect Trump University.

Huffington Post: “A former employee of Trump University, who requested anonymity because he has a nondisclosure agreement, said that politics always played a role in how Trump University did business. ‘All we have to do is stroke a check to the committee to re-elect [the state attorney general],’ the individual said. ‘And the problems go away.'” [Huffington Post, 9/6/16]

And Donald Trump admits he’s given money to politicians so he can get something from them in return.
TRUMP: “I’ve given to Democrats. I’ve given to Hillary. I‘ve given to everybody, because that was my job. I’ve got to give to them. Because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass. It’s true.” [Washington Examiner, 1/10/16; Donald Trump for President Rally, Clear Lake IA]
TRUMP: “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do…As a businessman, I need that.” [Washington Post, 9/6/16]

However, let’s not forg
et what this scandal is really about: vulnerable Americans have been defrauded by Trump and his sham “University.”
Wall Street Journal: “Newly released documents in a lawsuit against Trump University cite several former employees of the school as saying the university didn’t live up to what it promised students—calling it a ‘fraudulent scheme’ and ‘a total lie.’” [Wall Street Journal, 6/1/16]
TIME: “The [Trump University] playbook also outlines a strategy for targeting people with the most pressing problems, presumably financial. […] On a later page, it offers two examples of personal problems potential Trump University buyers may be experiencing: ‘Are they a single parent of three children that may need money for food?’” [TIME, 5/31/16]

And even though Florida didn’t investigate Trump University and Texas and dropped its investigation, two class-action lawsuits in California and a lawsuit by the New York Attorney General against Trump University are all ongoing or headed to trial. California continues to investigate consumer complaints.

The San Diego Union-Tribune: “Court documents that continue to be unsealed in the Trump University case portray the program as a ‘fraudulent scheme’ that employed high-pressure sales tactics to extract as much money from customers as possible — and also as a place where some participants got ‘exceptional’ advice about getting into and profiting from real estate. The views from former employees and customers are part of two class actions lawsuits against the investing program and its namesake, apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/1/16]
New York Times: “A federal lawsuit by former Trump University students against the school’s founder, Donald J. Trump, will proceed toward trial, the judge in the case ruled on Tuesday. In a written decision, Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel rejected a motion by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to dismiss the case, concluding that the aggrieved former students had raised a genuine question about whether Mr. Trump had ‘knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud.'” [New York Times, 8/2/16]
USA Today: “A New York Supreme Court judge ruled Tuesday afternoon that a case against Donald Trump and his real estate mentorship program known as Trump University can go to trial.  The case is brought by Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and could finally see Trump himself in court if he’s called to testify. Schneiderman first filed the fraud case in 2014 on behalf of students that enrolled in the program he says used the word ‘university’ in a deceptive way.” [USA Today, 4/26/16]
California Politico: “In response to the inquiries from POLITICO, the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris confirmed Thursday that it has launched inquiries into consumer complaints regarding Trump University. Asked if the investigation was ongoing, an AG spokeswoman confirmed that it was.” [Politico California Playbook, 6/3/16]
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