Did Donald Trump profit from charity golf tournaments to help sick children?
Golf Culture

Did Donald Trump profit from charity golf tournaments to help sick children?

The Trump Organization, and, by extension Donald Trump, profited substantially from a charity golf tournament held by Eric Trump -- beyond any reasonable expectation for a charitable event -- according to a Forbes report.

Eric Trump, through the Eric Trump Foundation, has been hosting a charitable golf event at a Trump Organization golf property in Westchester Co., N.Y., for approximately a decade, per the report. The event's primary beneficiary is St. Jude Children's Hospital, the pre-eminent pediatric treatment and research hospital in the United States. To date, his foundation has directly raised some $11 million for St. Jude, mostly through his tournament. Through other organizations and fundraising, Eric Trump has directed another $5 million to St. Jude.

Trump has boasted that the event has low overhead because the use of the golf course -- one of, if not the largest, expenses in running a charity golf outing -- was free since his family owned it. Most other potential expenses were donated.

However, Forbes found that, starting in 2011, the tournament's fourth year, the overhead expenses exploded from $46,000 to $142,000, per IRS filings. Donald Trump apparently was apoplectic that his son wasn't being charged for use of the golf club and insisted that change. Ultimately, the overhead costs paid to the Trump Organization total to $1.2 million through 2015, the last year of IRS records available, with costs increasing on an annual basis to $322,000 in 2015. It's unclear how much of that money was for golf course rental. Some of the money may also be related to other, similar charitable events held by the Eric Trump Foundation.

In 2012, in particular, the Donald Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation to offset the costs billed to them by the Trump Organization for the course rental. However, Donald Trump hasn't contributed to his own foundation in years, so that $100,000 was outside money was effectively instantly turned from a charitable donation to the Eric Trump Foundation into instant profit for the Trump Organization.

What is also unclear is if the fees charged to the Eric Trump Foundation are in line with, less or more than fees charged to other charitable organizations hosting golf events at Trump properties.

The Forbes report notes the explosion in overhead costs seemingly correlates with the fundamental upheaval in the board of the Eric Trump Foundation, with the board shifting in 2010 from mostly consisting of Eric Trump's friends to a much larger board, predominantly made up of people who make most of their income from the Trump Organization.

Starting in 2011, some $500,000 also went to charities beyond St. Jude. Those donations seemingly led, albeit indirectly, to profit for the Trump Organization. For example, a $5,000 donation to a charity called Abilis, which provides services to people with disabilities. Later in 2012, Donald Trump's nephew Fred Trump, brought the inaugural Golf for Abilis fundraiser to Trump National Westchester. In a handful of years, Trump and Abilis spent some $240,000 at Trump-owned properties. This isn't fundamentally illegal.

The Forbes report found other dubious donations from the Eric Trump Foundation. Trump and the foundation didn't provide clear explanations for these payments.

The Eric Trump Foundation now is known as Curetivity and continues to raise money for St. Jude.

On Fox News Channel's "Hannity" on Tuesday, Eric Trump responded as part of a somewhat meandering response to critics of him and his family, including his Presidential father.

“I mean I got attacked today,” Trump said in part. “I raised $16.3 million for St. Jude’s [Children’s Research Hospital], $16.3, I’ve dedicated my — I started when I was 21, I raised $16.3 million for the greatest hospital in the world, that’s St. Jude. And I get attacked for it."

He followed up on Thursday on Twitter in response to a tweet from Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins, who queried Trump directly about questions raised about Trump's charitable efforts by fellow WaPo writer David Fahrenthold.

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