The Trumpster created Trump University, a bogus, over-priced fraud, pretending to be an institution of higher learning.
As WC has reported before, Trump University was never a university. In fact, when the “school” was established in 2005, the New York State Education Department specifically warned The Donald that it was in violation of state law for operating without a NYSED license. The Donald ignored the warnings.
Trump University is now the defendant in three different lawsuits — two class-action lawsuits filed in California, and a criminal fraud case filed in New York by then-attorney general Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman told CNN, “We started looking at Trump University and discovered that it was a classic bait-and-switch scheme. It was a scam, starting with the fact that it was not a university.”1
Trump ran the con in Florida, too. The Florida Attorney General was considering whether or not to join in the New York case when the Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution to her re-election campaign.2 And guess what? Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi decided not to go after Trump University. Oh, and she decided to support the Donald’s run for president. WC understands that everyone has a price, but you’d think the chief law enforcement officer of a big state would command a higher price that $25,000. But that’s not the point of this blog post.
There are two very serious problems with this little scenario.
First, you have the spectacle of a law enforcement official accepting a bribe from the person she is supposed to be investigating. And, by all available evidence, allowing the bribe to determine her decision. Seriously, anyone who has looked at what “Trump University” was doing will recognize a classic con. Right down to the photograph with the cardboard cutout of The Donald. And then to endorse for President of the United States the person you were supposed to be considering for very serious charges? If that’s not accepting a bribe in the State of Florida, it sure should be. And The Donald’s “mistaken” payment sure smells like a bribe, doesn’t it?
Second, you have a charitable organization doing what a charitable organization is absolutely, expressly and unambiguously forbidden to do: giving money to a political campaign. Charities are permitted to use a modest amounts of their budget for lobbying. Charities are barred from contributing to candidates, whether it is for an elected dogcatcher or the President of the United States or the elected Attorney General of the State of Florida.
Worse, The Donald’s team of accountants lied to the IRS about who the Trump Foundation had given the money to. Trump Foundation said it was to “Justice for All,” a genuine charity. But it was actually given to “And Justice for All, AG Biondi’s political campaign. Pretty sneaky, eh?3 The Donald might have gotten away with it but for the good work of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – CREW – who ferreted out the scam and busted it to the IRS.
If you or WC had our very own charitable foundation – heh – and made a campaign contribution of $250, let alone $25,000, the IRS would be on us like fleas on a dog, and the charitable status of our foundation would be gone before you can say “The rich are different.”
Still, we can hope that the crippled Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS can muster the courage and authority to act. Right? Or the U.S. Department of Justice will enforce the laws against lying to the I.R.S. Right?
- The “playbooks” for Trump University have been leaked to the media. Devastating. It would be a lot of fun to watch The Donald squirm through trial. ↩
- Technically, to Biondi’s Electioneering Communications Organization; an ECO can coordinate with the candidate, unlike a PAC (wink, wink) but has a more limited scope and cannot operate at certain times during the election cycle. ↩
- The Donald’s foundation claims the misidentification of the donee to the IRS. Implausible. But they don’t explain the violation of the absolute bar on donations to political campaigns. ↩