When The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold first reported that Donald Trump has used money contributed to the foundation that bears his name to help settle two lawsuits, Trump and his surrogates repeatedly said the charge was untrue.
At the third presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump essentially acknowledged he had used Trump Foundation money to settle a lawsuit against the town of Palm Beach, which had imposed fines against his Mar-a-Lago club after he erected an American flag at the estate that was so tall that it violated town ordinances.
Trump sued, charging that the town’s regulations violated his First Amendment rights. The suit was ultimately settled, with Trump agreeing to pay $100,000 to a veterans charity. To make the payment, Fahrenthold found, Trump had used his foundation, which has been stocked with money from other people for years. (Though he said at the debate, “people contribute, I contribute,” Trump has contributed no money to the foundation that bears his name since 2008.)
It is considered improper “self-dealing” to use a charity for personal benefit, including to settle lawsuits. “We put up the American flag. That’s it. We fought for the right,” Trump said when asked about the issue at the debate, before noting that the money had ultimately gone to Fisher House, which helps families of wounded service members.
Trump didn’t mention another lawsuit which his foundation helped settle — the case of a man who sued one of Trump’s golf courses after it failed to pay out a promised $1 million prize to the man after he got a hole-in-one at a charity golf tournament.