Donald Trump Faces Questions Over "Pay-to-Play"

September 8th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Donald Trump is embroiled in yet another scandal involving his defunct for-profit college Trump University.


The controversy surrounds a $25,000 donation Trump's family foundation made to a super PAC​ backing the campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the New York Times reports.

The donation — which was solicited by Bondi, according to the Associated Press — was received four days after Bondi's office announced that it was reviewing fraud allegations made against Trump University in a New York class-action lawsuit. Bondi's office ultimately declined to take action against Trump University.

As the Washington Post reported, Trump did break federal tax law by donating money from his tax-exempt charity to a political campaign and was fined $2,500 by the I.R.S., but no definitive proof has surfaced that Trump or Bondi violated federal bribery law.

From the AP:

"Bondi declined repeated requests for an interview on Monday, referring all questions to Marc Reichelderfer, a political consultant who worked for her most re-election effort.

Reichelderfer told AP that Bondi spoke with Trump "several weeks" before her office publicly announced it was deliberating whether to join a lawsuit proposed by New York's Democratic attorney general. Reichelfelder said that Bondi was unaware of dozens of consumer complaints received by her office about Trump's real-estate seminars at the time she requested the donation.

'The process took at least several weeks, from the time they spoke to the time they received the contribution,' Reichelderfer told AP."

Though the Trump campaign has maintained that his donation to Bondi was not related to his now defunct university, the paper trail certainly raises questions.

Both Trump and his daughter each donated $500 to Bondi in fall 2013 and in 2014, the Trumps donated $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, the Huffington Post reports.

According to the Huffington Post, Trump rented his Mar-a-Lago resort to the state's party for a 2014 fundraiser for Bondi and charged only $4,855.65, while he's charged his own campaign close to $140,000 to host an event at the venue.

An anonymous former employee of Trump University told the Huffington Post, “All we had to do is stroke a check to the committee to re-elect [the state attorney general]. And the problems went away.”

These concerns also bring up some of Trump's earlier remarks about political donations.

“I was a businessman," he said in an August 2015 Republican debate. "I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.”

In an all-too-ironic twist, reports on the donation to Bondi arrive amidst Trump launching "pay-to-play" accusations against Hillary Clinton.

Pay-to-play rules prevent corruption in government by prohibiting certain businesses and organizations from receiving government contracts from politicians and candidates for whom employees have raised money, the Hill explains.

Trump has repeatedly alleged that Clinton participated in such "pay-to-play" deals with Clinton Foundation donors during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Adding fuel to the fire, a recent email dump revealed that half of the private citizens Clinton met with as Sec. of State were donors to the Clinton foundation. Foreign governments rank among some of the foundation's most prolific donors, which has been a particular cause for concern among Clinton critics since she announced her campaign, CNN reports.


However, even as concerns about the propriety of the Clinton Foundation continue to dog the candidate's campaign, investigations have more frequently produced the appearance of a conflict of interest, rather than the figurative smoking gun.

[h/t Huffington Post]