Monday, April 05, 2021

Reputation Laundering

Go easy on Michael Cohen. As a con man in his previous life, he himself was an easy mark. He can be heard on this portion of a podcast remarking

I was involved in the raising of millions of dollars-many millions of dollars. And this wasw with Eric Trump, by the way, whith his eric Trump Foundation, which solely benefitted St. Jude's hospital. And that's just to name a few.

After he was briefly interrupted, Cohen continued

Look, there are many things that we can say about him, and they're all true . But anybody that raises, or helps to raise, millions of dollars for children with cancer- I'll give him a pass on that. I don't give him a pass on anything else. But that part I'm going to give him a pass on.

The voice off-cameria is heard explaining that such apparent charity

launders your reputation. It allows you to have cover in business, in politics, and in whatever area of life you go on. And then on an infinitely grander scale your father becomes President and whatever happens to health care funding, to hospitals, whatever happens to any number of aspects of our system where, yet again, you raised a couple of million dollars for someone, now there's billions of dollars fewer in expenditures on any number of good causes, right.

So we have to get a lot smarter about generosity not being a substitute for justice, about philanthropy not being a substitute for actually being a good person and, kind of, personal kindness not being a substitute for systemic kindness.

Nonetheless, even this charitable behavior was part of the Donald J. Trump criminal enterprise. Forbes described an event at Trump National Golf Course in Westchester, NY in September of 2016 in which "the real star of the day" was

Eric Trump, the president's second son and now the co-head of the Trump Organization, who has hosted this event for ten years on behalf of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. He's done a ton of good: To date, he's directed more than $11 million there, the vast majority of it via this annual golf event. He has also helped raise another $5 million through events with other organizations....

In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it's clear that the course wasn't free--that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.

Forbes found that the Donald J. Trump Foundation

apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

And while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.

All of this seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors. It also raises larger questions about the Trump family dynamics and whether Eric and his brother, Don Jr., can be truly independent of their father.

Especially since the person who specifically commanded that the for-profit Trump Organization start billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit Eric Trump Foundation, according to two people directly involved, was none other than the current president of the United States, Donald Trump....

The Donald J. Trump Foundation famously acted like an arm of the overall business, using the charity's money to settle a Trump business lawsuit, make a political donation and even purchase expensive portraits of its namesake. Meanwhile, Trump businesses billed the Trump campaign, fueled by small outside donors, more than $11 million to use his properties, chefs and private aircraft.

In October of 2020 David Farenthold and three of his colleagues at The Washington Post revealed

Since his first month in office, Trump has used his power to direct millions from U.S. taxpayers — and from his political supporters — into his own businesses. The Washington Post has sought to compile examples of this spending through open records requests and a lawsuit.

In all, he has received at least $8.1 million from these two sources since he took office, those documents and publicly available records show.

The president brought taxpayer money to his businesses simply by bringing himself. He’s visited his hotels and clubs more than 280 times now, making them a familiar backdrop for his presidency. And in doing so, he has turned those properties into magnets for GOP events, including glitzy fundraisers for his own reelection campaign, where big donors go to see and be seen....

Since 2017, Trump’s company has charged taxpayers for hotel rooms, ballrooms, cottages, rental houses, golf carts, votive candles, floating candles, candelabras, furniture moving, resort fees, decorative palm trees, strip steak, chocolate cake, breakfast buffets, $88 bottles of wine and $1,000 worth of liquor for White House aides. And water.

Since Trump took office, his company has been paid at least $2.5 million by the U.S. government, according to documents obtained by The Post.

In addition, Trump’s campaign and fundraising committee paid $5.6 million to his companies since his inauguration in January 2017. Those payments — turning campaign donations into private revenue — continued even this year, as Trump fell behind in polls and his campaign ran short of money.

There was nothing President Trump wouldn't monetize, nothing he would balk at turning into a money-making opportunity with the bonus that he would be cheating and manipulating Americans- and if illegal, all the better. However, the Trump experience also should remind us that personal charity pales in importance to systemic or institutional assistance, easily forgotten in the Go Fund Me age.



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