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Trump’s campaign says he’s given ‘tens of millions’ to charity, but offers no details and no proof

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What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail

MANCHESTER, NH - NOVEMBER 7: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH on Monday November 07, 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

A spokeswoman for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, seeking to rebut criticism of the GOP nominee's history of charitable giving, said that Trump has given away "tens of millions of dollars" over his life.

But spokeswoman Hope Hicks offered no details about that number, beyond saying that it included donations from the Donald J. Trump Foundation -- a charity that, despite its name, has been filled almost entirely with other people's money in recent years.

Hicks also provided no information about how much -- if any -- of the donations she was describing had come from Trump's own pocket.

The Washington Post has spent the past few months searching for evidence of that kind of personal donation, without much success. The Post has called 326 charities with connections to Trump, asking if they had received a gift of the nominee's own money. Between 2008 and this May, that search turned up just one gift, from 2009. It worth less than $10,000.

Reporter David Fahrenthold is investigating how much presidential candidate Donald Trump has given to charity over the past seven years. Here's what he found. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

On Monday afternoon, Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), said on CNN that "anyone who knows about Donald Trump and his career knows that this is a man who’s given away tens of millions of dollars to charitable causes throughout his business life."

But Pence, also, did not provide details to back up that estimate. When CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked for evidence, Pence cited a single example: a $100,000 check that Trump had written to a Louisiana church in August, to help with the cleanup after a devastating flood. That check did come from Trump's own pocket, though Pence said he wasn't sure if it had.

Hicks, in her statement, also took issue with a Washington Post story that ran Sunday, explaining the unusual qualities of the Trump Foundation.

The Post found that -- unlike most private foundations -- Trump's charity had been retooled to rely almost entirely on other donors' money. In fact, tax records show no gifts at all from Trump to the Trump Foundation since 2008.

Instead, the foundation's coffers had been filled in with gifts from other donors, which Trump gave away under his own foundation's name.

In addition, The Post's story found that the Trump Foundation appeared to have defied tax laws. In one case, it made an improper political donation to a group supporting Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi (R), which arrived around the time that Bondi's office was considering fraud allegations against Trump University. Trump paid a penalty tax for that gift after The Post reported on it earlier this year. The Trump Foundation also appeared to have defied laws against "self-dealing," by purchasing items for Trump himself -- including a $12,000 football helmet and a $20,000 painting of the Republican nominee -- with foundation money, earmarked for charity.

"This article is not at all accurate," Hicks said in her statement on Monday.. "Mr. Trump continues to be unfairly maligned for his generosity and we will continue to correct the record."

That was followed by a short statement. It did not seem to take issue with any specific detail in The Post's story. The statement, in its entirety, read:

"Mr. Trump has donated tens of millions of dollars to charities both through his Foundation and otherwise.  In addition, friends of Mr. Trump have generously donated to his Foundation.  As President of the Foundation, Mr. Trump has directed his Foundation to donate those funds to many worthy causes.  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."

In all, The Post has identified less than $9 million in gifts to charity from Trump's pocket over his lifetime, including the $5.3 million he gave to his foundation before the last gift in 2008. In addition, Trump's foundation has taken in about $9 million from other donors, and given away most of it.

Last year, the Trump campaign also put out a detailed list of what it said was $102 million in charitable giving from Trump over five years. But a close look by The Post found that not a single one of the gifts listed was actually a donation of Trump's own money.

Most of the entries, in fact, were free rounds of golf given away by Trump's golf courses, for local charities to auction or raffle off.

Trump has also declined to release his tax returns, unlike all other nominees have for several decades. They would likely make clear what he donates to charity from his own pocket.

6 times Donald Trump promised personal contributions on Celebrity Apprentice. (Video: Daron Taylor, David Fahrenthold/The Washington Post)