IF DONALD TRUMP were treated like an ordinary presidential candidate, the speculations swirling around an illegal donation his charitable foundation gave to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) might dog his campaign from now until Election Day. The situation smells of influence-buying. Even if one takes Ms. Bondi’s explanations seriously, the facts already on the record are damning.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) sued Trump University and other Trump-affiliated for-profit educational ventures in 2013. Subsequently, the Trump family donated to Ms. Bondi. Around the same time, the Donald J. Trump Foundation also gave $25,000 to a political committee backing Ms. Bondi’s campaign.
Ms. Bondi’s office could easily have taken up a case similar to Mr. Schneiderman’s. Trump University and the Trump Institute, another Trump-related enterprise, were very active in Florida. The attorney general’s office had reportedly received dozens of complaints about Trump-associated educational entities in 2008. According to a spokesman, staff in Ms. Bondi’s office reviewed the Schneiderman allegations “to see if they have any relevance to Florida.” Yet Ms. Bondi’s office did not launch an investigation or file a lawsuit.
A Bondi spokesman told the Associated Press that Ms. Bondi did not know about complaints regarding Mr. Trump’s educational companies when she solicited the $25,000 donation. Ms. Bondi’s associates have also said that someone else made the decision not to investigate Trump University and the Trump Institute.
It is possible that is true. But, given Mr. Trump’s bragging that he regularly bought politicians to serve his own ends, it seems unlikely he gave to Ms. Bondi for principled reasons. Even if Ms. Bondi did not know she was being bought, it is a good bet that was Mr. Trump’s intention. Either way, Ms. Bondi’s office abandoned desperate people who claim they were scammed by Trump-associated educational companies. After that — and a fancy, Trump-subsidized gala at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort — she became an early surrogate for Mr. Trump during this presidential race.
At the very least, the news should remind voters of two of the many disqualifying elements of Mr. Trump’s record. First is the scandal of Trump University and the Trump Institute, sleazy operations that took thousands of dollars from poor, uneducated and credulous people who thought they would learn the secrets of the real estate business. Many report getting little to nothing for their money. This is among the pieces of evidence suggesting that Mr. Trump is not a brilliant businessman but a shameless hustler.
Voters should also see how Mr. Trump once again attempted to use his charitable foundation, which other people have funded over the past several years, for his own personal ends. The $25,000 he transferred from the foundation to Ms. Bondi was an illegal donation; charitable groups cannot give to campaigns. The Internal Revenue Service only recently fined Mr. Trump for this transgression because a supposed clerical error made it seem legitimate. Even if that mistake were genuine, why was Mr. Trump attempting to use money meant for charity to fund a political campaign?
These points, among others, suggest that Mr. Trump’s penchant for lying and deception does not end with relatively harmless campaign-season overstatement. It is a business strategy, and it has real-world consequences.
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