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Donald Trump camp denies he used charity money to settle suits

By Allen Cone
Donald Trump camp denies he used charity money to settle suits
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie behind him, speaks at Mar-A-Largo in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 1 after Super Tuesday primaries. The Washington Post reported his foundation donated $100,000 to Fisher House, a veterans charity, as part of a settlement with the town of Palm Beach regarding Mar-a-Lago. File photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Donald Trump's campaign staff disputed a Washington Post report that the Republican presidential nominee used $258,000 from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved his businesses.

Senior communications adviser Jason Miller said in a statement Tuesday the report is "peppered with inaccuracies and omissions from a biased reporter who is clearly intent on distracting attention away from the corrupt Clinton Foundation, a vehicle for the Clintons to peddle influence at the expense of the American people."

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The lawsuits were among four newly documented expenditures that may have violated laws against "self-dealing" in which non-profit leaders are prohibited from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses, according to a report Tuesday in The Washington Post.

If the Internal Revenue Service determines Trump violated self-dealing rules, it could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation. The newspaper also said this is further evidence the foundation may have violated U.S. tax law.

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The foundation is mainly funded from other donors' money and Trump has not contributed to it since 2008, according to the Post review of legal documents and interviews.

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"In typical Washington Post fashion, they've gotten their facts wrong. It is the Clinton Foundation that is set up to make sure the Clintons personally enrich themselves by selling access and trading political favors," Miller said in the statement. "The Trump Foundation has no paid board, no management fees, no rent or overhead, and no family members on its payroll."

But David Fahrenthold, who wrote the Post article, told CNN that "Trump is using his charities to benefit his businesses, which is against the law."

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The New York Attorney General's Office also is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

"All contributions are reported to the IRS, and all foundation donations are publicly disclosed," Miller said.

He said there was no "intent or motive" for the foundation to make any "improper payments."

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"Mr. Trump personally and the Trump Foundation, however, are staying focused on their charitable giving to veterans, the police, children and other deserving recipients," Miller said.

The biggest donation from the foundation was $100,000 to Fisher House, a veterans' charity, as part of a settlement with the town of Palm Beach, Fla., home to Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club. In 2007, Mar-a-Lago faced $120,000 in unpaid fines.

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"I think this is a classic Donald Trump," Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Tuesday night. "He wanted to raise the American flag as high as he possibly could over Mar-a-Lago. I think a lot of Americans at this point would applaud that. And of course the county said he couldn't do that, it had to be smaller, so they started assessing a $1,250 fine. So the way they wanted to settle it was for Trump to donate $100,000 to a veteran's group."

Another check for $158,000 was distributed from the foundation to settle another lawsuit involving a Trump golf course, according to the Washington Post.

"I've been talking to the people who are responsible for the Trump Foundation to get some facts and some figures," Conway said. "It's very important for people to understand what happened in these cases. Donations went to veterans groups ... How did the Mar-a-Lago benefit from him giving $100,000 to veterans? The veterans benefited and I think that's great and I applaud him for doing that."

The two other latest expenditures reported by the Washington Post are not tied to lawsuits. In 2013, Trump took $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 on a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser, according to the newspaper.

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Trump frequently is "signing checks privately to help people" from his own bank account separate from the foundation, Conway said.

"You can only imagine how many people have asked Mr. Trump for his time and his resources and his connections and his money privately, and he does that and he doesn't have cameras in there, it doesn't go through foundations," she said.

CNN's Erin Burnett said the donations can't be verified because Trump hasn't released his tax returns.

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