President Trump is again being accused of benefiting personally from a nonprofit organization, in this case his inaugural committee, which apparently was charged more than twice advised rates for the use of Trump International Hotel as an event space. That charge, reportedly $175,000 per day, was allowed even though event planners involved indicated there could be problems if that amount were to be made public, with one suggesting at the time that a more appropriate amount would be around $85,000 per day, less than half of what was actually charged per day.
The high rate could lead to allegations of tax law violations and, much like with Trump’s now-closed Donald J. Trump Foundation, allegations of self-dealing, where Trump was again benefiting financially from a non-profit. A WYNC/Pro-Publica investigation on the subject was released on Friday. Doug White, a tax adviser to non-profit organizations, said, according to The Hill, “Every legitimate nonprofit is very concerned with this. You’re benefiting a private person, and you’re using the nonprofit to do it.” Reportedly, another hotel in which the head of Trump’s inaugural committee, Tom Barrack, had a partial interest also gleaned $1.5 million from the inaugural committee. According to The Hill:
President Trump’s inauguration committee was reportedly charged a rate of $175,000 per day to use event space at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., despite internal objections at the Trump Organization that the rates were too high…The report found that the rate was set despite serious objections from those involved in the planning of the event. “Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge,” wrote Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a New York City-based event planner who suggested that an appropriate rate be closer to $85,000 per day according to the report. Ari Krupkin, a Washington-based event planner, called the fee “more than egregious.” Experts told WNYC/ProPublica that the rate raised questions of whether the inauguration committee was involved in self-dealing with the Trump Organization. “It could be a tax law violation,” Brett Kappel, an Akerman LLP attorney specializing in nonprofits, told WNYC/ProPublica.
The misuse of funds from a nonprofit, including through self-dealing, is precisely what led to the dissolution of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, Trump’s charity. The Donald J. Trump Foundation made an agreement in December with the New York Attorney General’s office to dissolve under state supervision, while the Attorney General’s office will continue pursuing a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation. In that lawsuit the Attorney General seeks $2.8 million in restitution plus penalties and, importantly, seeks to bar Donald Trump and his three oldest children from serving on the boards of other New York-based charities because of the “shocking pattern of illegality” (The Hill) in the dealings of the Trump Foundation, according to the New York Attorney General at that time, Barbara Underwood. Describing that pattern, Underwood said, according to The Hill, “Mr. Trump used charitable assets to pay off the legal obligations of entities he controlled, to promote Trump hotels, to purchase personal items, and to support his presidential election campaign.”
Underwood’s successor, Letitia James, has vowed to continue this lawsuit and pursue other investigations of all things Trump, saying she would “use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well”, according to The Hill.