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NY attorney general 'looking into' Trump Foundation activity

By Eric DuVall
NY attorney general 'looking into' Trump Foundation activity
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to the American Legion National Convention on Sept. 1. Trump's family charitable foundation has come under scrutiny from the media and New York's attorney general after allegations he used it for his personal benefit. Photo by Ernest Coleman/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is "looking into" Donald Trump's charitable foundation after media reports he used it for his personal benefit.

Schneiderman told CNN on Tuesday his office has been in contact with the Trump Foundation to request records after a Washington Post article questioned the unorthodox way Trump's family foundation operates. According to the Post, Trump has solicited donations to his foundation while giving no money of his own in recent years. He then makes donations under the Trump Foundation name without giving the original donors credit, the Post reported.

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"My interest in this issue really is in my capacity as regulator of nonprofits in New York state. And we have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety from that point of view," Schneiderman told CNN anchor Jake Tapper. "And we've inquired into it, and we've had correspondence with them. I didn't make a big deal out of it or hold a press conference. We have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it's complying with the laws governing charities in New York."

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The Post, citing tax records from the Trump Foundation, noted Trump has not made a donation to his own charity since 2008. The story also detailed multiple instances where Trump used the foundation to pay for charitable acts from which he appeared to be the sole beneficiary. In two instances, the Trump Foundation paid for the winning bids at charitable auctions. In one, Trump won a football helmet autographed by former Heisman Trophy-winning college football quarterback Tim Tebow. In another instance, his wife, Melania, won an auction for a 6-foot portrait of her husband. The Trump Foundation paid $20,000 for the painting. The whereabouts of the items is unknown but the Post said it could not find any records to suggest they were donated to another charity or sold off to benefit the the foundation itself.

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Trump has called the report "inaccurate."

The Trump Foundation first came under scrutiny in March, when the Post uncovered a $25,000 donation it made to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi. Charities are forbidden under U.S. tax law to make political donations and the foundation was fined $2,500. Trump has said the donation was a paperwork error -- a clerk mistook the name of Bondi's group for a similarly named organization in Utah, though the donation itself was routed to Bondi. Trump said the donation was meant to come out of his own pocket and he subsequently reimbursed the foundation for the $25,000. The timing of the Bondi donation was also questioned because it came as her office was looking into whether to join New York and several other states in litigation against Trump University, the candidate's for-profit business seminars that some former attendees complained were a scam. Florida eventually did not join the Trump University case.

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Trump and Bondi denied the donation had any effect on her decision.

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Trump has forcefully denounced the Trump University lawsuits, initiated by Schneiderman, a Democrat, as frivolous. He said most of the students who enrolled in the Trump University seminars left satisfied with the business training they received.

Trump senior aide Jason Miller said in a statement that Schneiderman's latest action looking into the Trump Foundation is another partisan attempt to tarnish the candidate's reputation.

"This is nothing more than another left-wing hit job designed to distract from Crooked Hillary Clinton's disastrous week," Miller said.

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