Of all of Donald Trump’s controversies from the early summer, the one about Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) was one of the toughest to explain away. As we discussed a few months ago, the Republican A.G. briefly considered joining a multi-state suit against “Trump University,” but Bondi dropped the investigation after the Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution towards her re-election campaign.
It didn’t help matters that Bondi “personally solicited” the money from Trump while her office was considering a case against “Trump University.”
Also unclear was why the Trump Foundation, ostensibly a charitable entity, was making a campaign contribution. The Washington Post reported late yesterday that the questions prompted IRS scrutiny and a penalty the Republican presidential candidate paid this year.
Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump’s company said, after it was revealed that Trump’s charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida’s attorney general. […]In [its 2013] tax filings, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation did not notify the IRS of this political donation. Instead, Trump’s foundation listed a donation – also for $25,000 – to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi’s political group. In fact, Trump’s foundation had not given the Kansas group any money.The prohibited gift was, in effect, replaced with an innocent-sounding but nonexistent donation.
Trump’s organization blames all of this on a series of unintended mistakes, which have since been resolved.
That’s certainly possible, but let’s not lose sight of prevailing political winds.
Guy Cecil, the co-chair PrioritiesUSA, a leading Democratic super PAC, joked on Twitter yesterday, “Breaking: Presidential candidate’s foundation fined for pay-to-play scheme. Looking forward to wall-to-wall coverage.”
He has a point. There’s been intense interest from news organizations in the Clinton Foundation, and several Republicans have asked for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s ties to her husband’s charity – despite the fact that there’s no evidence she did anything wrong and no one seems able to identify the specific allegations against the Democratic candidate.
It’s now taken as a given across much of the political world that the Clinton Foundation is “controversial” for reasons that are still, at best, difficult to explain.
And yet, as of now, only one 2016 presidential candidate has been fined for misusing a charitable foundation to make an improper political donation – and that candidate isn’t Hillary Clinton.