Trump might have illegally used his charitable foundation's funds to launch his political career

Donald Trump.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

An investigation by RealClearPolitics is raising questions about whether Donald Trump illegally used money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to promote his political goals as far back as 2011. If Trump indeed made contributions from the charitable foundation to influential conservatives and policy groups for his benefit alone, such giving could be in violation of federal laws preventing self-dealing:

From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation's tax filings found. In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.Although sources familiar with the thinking behind the donations cautioned that Trump did not explicitly ask for favors in return for the money, they said the contributions were part of a deliberate effort by Trump to ingratiate himself with influential conservatives and brighten his political prospects. [RealClearPolitics]

Trump has reportedly not donated to his own foundation since 2008; other donors' contributions make up the large share of the foundation's funds.

RealClearPolitics' findings, which you can read in full here, follow the news that a cease and desist order was sent to the Trump Foundation on Friday, after the New York attorney general's office determined Trump's eponymous charitable organization had been soliciting donations without certification.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.