The question of the candidate’s respective family foundations was bound to come up at the third debate. While allegations of pay to play were lobbed at the Clinton Foundation, Trump made some pretty bold claims about his own foundation.
This exchange has been lightly edited, but the full transcript is here.
CLINTON: Well, very quickly, we at the Clinton Foundation spend 90%, 90%, of all the money that is donated on behalf of programs for people around the world and in our own country. I’m very proud of that. We have the highest rating from the watchdogs that follow foundations. And I would be happy to compare what we do with the Trump Foundation which took money from other people and bought a six-foot portrait of Donald. I mean, who does that? I mean, it just was astonishing.
TRUMP: I’d like to mention one thing. Trump Foundation, small foundation. People contribute. I contribute. The money goes, 100%, 100% goes to different charities, including a lot of military. I don’t get anything. I don’t buy boats. I don’t buy planes.
WALLACE: Wasn’t some of the money used to settle your lawsuit, sir?
TRUMP: No, we put up the American flag and that’s it. They put up the American flag. We fought for the right in Palm Beach to put up the American flag.
WALLACE: There was a penalty that was imposed by Palm Beach county —
TRUMP: There was, there was and by the way, the money went to fisher house where they build houses, the money that you’re talking about went to Fisher House where they build houses for veterans and disabled veterans.
CLINTON: Of course, there’s no way we can know whether any of that is true because he hasn’t released his tax returns. He’s the first candidate ever to run for president in the last 40-plus years who has not released his tax returns. So everything he says about charity or anything else, we can’t prove it.
Trump said that the Trump foundation was a “small foundation.” He’s right there. In comparison to the Clinton Foundation it is minuscule. According to charity watchdog Guidestar, in 2014 the Clinton Foundation raised $91,00,000 and employed 486 people. The Trump Foundation in 2014 raised $596,000 and employed zero people.
“People contribute, I contribute,” Trump said about his “small foundation.” It turns out that according to The Washington Post’s future Pulitzer winner David Fahrenthold, Trump has not contributed to his own charity since 2008. So it’s mostly “people” that contribute, and not so much Donald. Here’s a handy graph from the Post.
“The money goes, 100%, 100% goes to different charities, including a lot of military,” Trump said of his charity. Surprisingly, it looks like 100% of revenues actually went to charitable distribution. They have no overhead, and no paid employees. However, some of those “charitable” donations are pretty suspect, bringing us to Trump’s next statement.
“I don’t get anything, I don’t buy boats, I don’t buy planes,” Trump said. Chris Wallace pressed him on this, bringing up a lawsuit against Trump’s company that was settled with Foundation funds. Essentially the Trump company was sued for erecting a flag pole that was too tall, fined by the city and then settled by making a $100,000 donation with Trump Foundation funds to Fisher House, a charity for veterans. A similar lawsuit in New York was settled with $158,000 in funds from the Trump Foundation to settle Trump’s legal problems.
Trump definitely bought a really ugly six foot portrait of himself with Trump Foundation money. Here it is, still hanging illegally in an office owned by Trump.
Perhaps most egregiously, Trump illegally donated $25,000 to the Florida Attorney General that was investigating Trump University for fraud. The case was later dropped by that same AG. Trump was caught and fined $2500 by the IRS.
And another thing, he bought himself a $12,000 Tim Tebow football helmet with charity funds.
To compare the Trump and Clinton Foundations is pretty laughable. The Clinton Foundation has raised nearly $2 billion dollars to help with AIDS medication and rebuilding Haiti. Trump has raised a tiny fraction of that, donated almost none of it himself, especially as a portion of income, and used much of the scant funds to directly benefit himself.