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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,830
September 22, 2016
Trump: Too Dishonest to be President
By Mike McManus

 

Donald Trump is too dishonest to be America's President. The Washington Post reported this week: "Donald Trump spent more than a quarter million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire's for-profit businesses."

These payments violate federal laws against "self-dealing" that prohibits nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

Two examples: Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida faced fines of $120,000 for erecting a giant flag on an 80-foot pole. Town rules said flagpoles could only be 42 feet high. Trump told the press, "You don't need a permit to put up the American flag." The town fined him $1,250 a day.

Trump sued in federal court, saying that a smaller flag "would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump's...patriotism."

They settled, with the town agreeing to allow him to give $100,000 to Fisher House, which runs comfort homes for military personnel and their families.

But the check was not issued by Trump personally or one of his businesses, but from the Trump Foundation.

Second, a Trump golf course in Westchester, New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by allowing him to make a $158,000 donation to the plaintiff's chosen charity. The case stemmed from a hole-in-one shot by Martin Greenburg, making him eligible for a $1 million prize. Later he was told he won nothing because the shot had to go 150 yards!

Greenburg sued. Eventually, the golf course agreed for Trump to pay $158,000 to a charity, which was the Martin Greenburg Foundation. Again, the check came not from Trump personally or his golf course - but the Trump Foundation.

Another clear example of self-dealing as defined by the Federal Tax Code.

Asked for his reaction, Jeffrey Tanenbaum told the Post, "I represent 700 non-profits a year, and I've never encountered anything so brazen. If he's using other people's money, run through his foundation - to satisfy his personal obligations, then that about as blatant an example of self-dealing (as) I've seen."

Trump founded his charity in 1987 and for years was its only contributor. But in 2006 the foundation gave away almost all of its money, leaving only $4,238. Trump made small donations in 2007-8, but nothing since. The money came from a few others such as pro-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon, who gave a total of $6 million.

Thus, Trump settled business law suits with other people's money!

The foundation even donated $25,000 to a political group supporting the re-election of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. That gift was made at the same time her office was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations of so-called "Trump University." Needless to say, Florida did not join other states suing the fraudulent university.

Trump bought her off, or rather, his foundation did so.

He even used Trump Foundation money to buy advertisements for his chain of hotels and to purchase two portraits of himself! One costing $20,000 was for a 6-foot high portrait!

Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, attorneys who were chief White House ethics lawyers for Presidents Bush and Clinton argued in a Washington Post column Wednesday that a "Trump presidency would be ethically compromised" for the following reasons:

"Opacity. Trump's refusal to disclose his tax returns shields critical information about his finances." They ask, "How much tax is Trump paying or sheltering domestically vs. in foreign jurisdictions? That needs to be known to ascertain which nations Trump has financial ties to and where he may be susceptible to pressure."

"Lack of divestment. Trump has said that if elected he would have the children
managing his business and would not discuss business matters with them. That is not sufficient. Presidents for the past half-century have either converted assets to simple, conflict-free holdings such as U.S. government bonds or blind trusts" used by Reagan, Carter, both Bushes and Clinton. "Assumption of the presidency requires a much more definitive break than Trump, so far, has been willing to make."

Foreign conflicts. More serious are possible conflicts his foreign investments in Russia, China, India, etc. "When the United States must support or confront those nations, would Trump act to benefit the national interest or his family investments?"

Veracity. "We must address Trump's propensity for dishonesty. It is disturbing that just 15% of his statements checked by PolitiFact are `true' or `mostly true.' No ethics program can work if the client is not honest."

To put it differently, Trump is 85% dishonest. That disqualifies him for President.
 

_____________________________________
Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.
 

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