WSJ: Trump donated to politicians who reviewed his finances

Wall Street Journal: Trump allegedly gave contributions to state attorneys general while they weighed decisions on his business.

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Ben Ariel,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has throughout his career given campaign contributions to state attorneys general while they weighed decisions affecting his business, The Wall Street Journal claimed on Wednesday, following a review of Trump’s political donations.

The issue recently surfaced during a controversy over Trump’s 2013 campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was reviewing a fraud case against Trump University, according to the newspaper.

Records show Trump, his family and associates donated in particular to attorneys general in New York, from Robert Abrams in the 1980s through incumbent Eric Schneiderman, who just recently announced he had opened an investigation into the Trump Foundation.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the money was often given when Trump’s companies had decisions pending in these offices.

Trump in his presidential bid has portrayed himself as an outsider independent from special interests and what he called the “rigged” political system. He and his aides have said making legal contributions doesn’t put him in the same category as what they describe as career politicians, such as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, his opponent for the White House.

“He has always said he’s given to politicians his entire career and he thinks the system is broken,” said Alan Garten, general counsel at the Trump Organization, an umbrella company for Trump’s businesses.

“Thinking that the system is broken doesn’t preclude him from giving to politicians when they are knocking on his door 365 days of the year,” he stressed.

The Wall Street Journal noted that Trump has been open about his motives, quoting comments he gave to the newspaper in 2015.

“As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” he said at the time, discussing donations to Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. “As a businessman, I need that.”

In total, Trump has given about $140,000 to a dozen people who either were state attorneys general or running for the post from 2001 to 2014, according to donation records. Some of the recipients returned the contributions. Totals before 2001 weren’t available.

A few weeks ago, noted The Wall Street Journal, Trump acknowledged paying a $2,500 fine to the Internal Revenue Service for a donation to a committee supporting the 2014 re-election of Florida’s Bondi. The $25,000 donation was paid by his charitable foundation, an improper use of nonprofit funds under IRS rules. Garten said it was a clerical error.

Bondi’s office at the time was reviewing a lawsuit by the New York attorney general alleging that Trump University, a real-estate academy, was a scam. A spokesman for Bondi has said she declined to pursue any action against Trump University because it had yielded only one consumer complaint in Florida and the business was already being investigated by New York.

Trump’s donations reportedly stretch back decades. Following a breakfast meeting with New York’s then-Attorney General Abrams in 1985, Trump pledged to contribute $15,000. At the time, Trump had three apartment-conversion proposals, which required permission from Abrams’s office, according to a 1989 report by the New York State Commission on Government Integrity.

The commission, which was broadly examining campaign finance in the state, found no conflicts from the donation under state law.

Spitzer, New York attorney general from 1999 to 2007, twice returned Trump’s donations, according to former Spitzer aides and public records.

Trump reportedly sent Spitzer a $10,000 check shortly after his 1999 election. The donation was returned because Trump had plans pending approval by Spitzer’s office.

In 2002 and 2003, according to The Wall Street Journal, Trump donated $21,000 to Spitzer around the time Trump was in a dispute with prospective buyers of a condo who wanted their six-figure deposit returned. Spitzer’s office had jurisdiction over the disagreement, which Trump later won.

In California, according to the newspaper, Trump donated a total of $6,000 in 2011 and 2013 to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat now running for Senate. Her opponent, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, also a Democrat, has questioned whether the Trump donations influenced the state’s probe of Trump University. Ivanka Trump, one of Trump’s daughters, gave $2,000 in 2014.

A spokesman for the California attorney general’s office said it disclosed its investigation of Trump University in October 2013, part of a probe of for-profit colleges that’s ongoing.

The first subpoena related to Trump University was served in 2011—shortly after a meet-and-greet for Schneiderman in June hosted by Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, and attended by their friends. The Trump campaign didn't respond to requests for comment from Ivanka Trump and Kushner.

The newspaper also noted that Schneiderman also accepted donations from Ivanka Trump and from Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen. Donald Trump had donated $12,500 to Schneiderman during his run for office in 2010. Cohen didn’t respond to a request for comment.

According to the report, Schneiderman returned the contributions by Ivanka Trump and Cohen received during his investigation. Schneiderman’s spokesman, Eric Soufer, said the attorney general is “willing to follow the facts, wherever they lead.”

The latest article follows this past weekend’s investigative report in The New York Times, which found that Trump claimed a $916 million dollar loss in 1995 according to leaked tax forms, a deduction so large it might have enabled him to avoid paying any federal income tax for up to 18 years.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani later refuted the argument that Trump evaded taxes, saying the GOP nominee is “a genius.”

Giuliani said that Trump had merely taken advantage of tax laws as a good businessman should.

“He would have been a fool not to take advantage” of the laws, he told ABC News, emphasizing that what Trump did was “perfectly legal."