Bob Bauer: “The Disastrous Legal Implications of the Trump Foundation’s Activities”

Bob in the Altantic:

The law governing the activity of charitable organizations can be complex, but on the question of whether 501(c)(3) charities can engage in political activity, it could not be more straightforward. They cannot. The IRS enforces an “absolute” prohibition on any intervention in political campaigns.

Whether such an intervention has occurred depends on the facts and circumstances, and sometimes there are close calls. None of those close calls are reflected in the New York attorney general’s complaint against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which tells the tale of a relationship between a charity and a political campaign that flouts in every conceivable way the legal prohibition on 501(c)(3) campaign activity.

Enforcement action at the state level, including this action to dissolve the Foundation, is likely to be followed by repercussions from federal law enforcement. The charity is subject to inquiry, and to the payment of sizeable penalties, for failing by virtue of its political activity to comply with the terms of its exemption. The Federal Election Commission will have little choice but to initiate its own investigation into the illegal corporate contributions from the Trump Foundation to President Donald Trump’s campaign. The New York attorney general has specifically “referred” these matters to the FEC, the Department of Justice, and the IRS for their review.


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