$2 Million Trump Foundation Settlement Also Implicates Campaign Finance Law, CLC Alleges in Supplemental FEC Complaint

Donald Trump waving to a crowd
After securing his place in the top three in the Republican caucuses, presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke briefly to a crowd a watch party, Feb 2 in West Des Moines. Photo by Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily via Creative Commons.

President Trump was ordered by a New York court to personally pay $2 million in damages for improperly using the Trump Foundation to support his 2016 presidential run. Those same activities also implicate campaign finance law. 

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a supplemental complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Nov. 21, 2019, expanding on CLC’s original complaint from July 11, 2018.

Shortly before the Iowa caucuses in 2016, Trump campaign staff used the Trump Foundation to organize an event in Iowa. Trump raised six-and-seven figure donations, some of them anonymous, and then distributed the funds at other Iowa campaign events. Some of the checks were emblazoned with the Trump campaign slogan.

CLC’s original complaint alleged that Trump, the Trump campaign and his foundation violated campaign finance law’s ban on soliciting, receiving, directing, and spending “soft money” funds in connection with an election for federal office that did not comply with federal law’s $2,700 contribution limit and disclosure requirements.

Following CLC’s original complaint and an investigation conducted by the New York Attorney General, the foundation agreed to dissolve.

Last month, Trump and the foundation acknowledged violating New York charitable and tax law, and also admitted to key factual allegations in CLC’s complaint, including, among other things, that:

  • “The campaign planned, organized, and paid for the Iowa fundraiser, with administrative assistance from the foundation;” and
  • “The campaign directed the timing, amounts, and recipients of the foundation’s grants.”

Then, a New York judge ordered Trump to personally pay $2 million for “allowing his campaign to orchestrate the [Iowa] fundraiser” and “allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the funds, and using the [Iowa] fundraiser and distribution of the funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.”

The stipulations of Trump and his foundation and the findings of Justice Scarpella establish that Trump, the Trump campaign and the foundation violated campaign finance law.

Read CLC’s original complaint and the supplemental complaint to the FEC.


This post was written by Sheely Edwards, a 2019 CLC Hinckley intern, and student at the University of Utah.