Donald Trump may finally have to answer some questions about his foundation’s activities.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday that his office had sent a cease and desist letter to the Trump Foundation for operating without proper certification. The charity will no longer be allowed to raise money until it properly registers no later than October 15, the attorney general’s office told The Daily Beast.
New York law dictates that any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year needs to have a special registration prior to doing so. The attorney general’s office also said that the Trump Foundation did not provide annual financial reports or audited financial statements.
Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks said the investigation by Schneiderman, a Democrat, has "political motives," but that Trump would cooperate.
That means Trump, under penalty of perjury, will have to disclose more information about his charitable organization than he ever has before.
First, among other things, the foundation is required to file "all delinquent financial reports" from years when it was raising more than $25,000 and not registered to do so with the state, James Sheehan of the attorney general's office charities bureau, wrote the foundation.
Sheehan cites state law, which also requires the foundation show, among other things, whether its officers, directors and personnel have ever been fined or penalized from soliciting contributions or have been found to have engaged in unlawful practices.
In addition, it has to provide the names and addresses of professional fund raisers, fund raising counsels and commercial co-venturers who are acting on behalf of the organization.
Finally, it has to hand over a copy of its annual report for the preceding fiscal year and the names and addresses of chapters, branches and other organizations that share in the contributions or revenue raises in the state.
The coming disclosure may help clear up whether the Trump Foundation skirted the law or entirely ignored it over ever since he began running for president.
The trouble began with an event in January during which Trump collected contributions intended for veterans, which were diverted into his foundation. Trump later presented checks to veterans charities at his political rallies, which is in violation of rules that prohibit charities from being used for political purposes.
A series of investigative reports that followed from The Washington Post revealed that Trump had used foundation money to settle personal legal disputes, buy portraits of himself and in one instance, funnel money to a political action committee supporting Florida’s Republican attorney general, Pam Bondi.
If misconduct in the operation of the Trump Foundation can be proven, the consequences would range from fines to jail time. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced last month that his office was investigating Trump's charitable activities.
Schneiderman's investigation of the foundation began with questions about the $25,000 contribution from the foundation to the pro-Bondi PAC. After the contribution, Bondi opted not to join a lawsuit against Trump University. For using his charity to send money to a political organization, Trump later paid a fine to the Internal Revenue Service.
The foundation was subsequently alleged to be engaging in what could be construed as self-dealing, in which Trump used charitable donations to pay settle lawsuits brought against him, not the foundation.
Scheiderman and Trump have a lengthy history dating back to the initiation of a years-long investigation into Trump University, a defunct institution alleged to have scammed students out of money.
Trump and his team have long been dismissive of Schneiderman, claiming that he was politically motivated as a Democrat to take actions against the real estate mogul in the state. Schneiderman did in fact endorse Hillary Clinton but Trump has also given Schneiderman a great deal of money in the past. In February, Trump referred to the cases against him as being led by a “sleazebag law firm,” and alleged he could have easily settled but didn’t want to.
Ironically, Trump has made the Clinton Foundation’s dealing a major point of his campaign, hoping to milk a pay-to-play narrative out of their work. In August, Trump called for shutdown of the Clinton Foundation.
His might end up going first.
Editor's note: The story has been updated throughout.