The New York Times Is Picking on the Wrong Candidate’s Charitable Organization

The Clinton Foundation is squeaky clean, while the Donald J. Trump Foundation is a scam.

Paul Krugman is clearly correct that the reporting on the Clinton Foundation has been terrible, filled with innuendo, and has, to date, found nothing untoward or unethical. He’s also right to get a sinking feeling that we’re seeing a repeat of what happened to Al Gore in 2000, when he somehow came off as the dishonest candidate when matched up against an opponent whose entire platform was based on “fuzzy math,” with predictable catastrophic consequences once he became president.

Krugman is also disturbingly correct about this:

True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.

That story on the payoffs can be followed in the pages of the Washington Post, but it doesn’t seem to interest Krugman’s own New York Times. It might shock you to learn that Trump even has a charitable organization since he gives almost no money to charity, but the Donald J. Trump Foundation does in fact exist, and it was fined by the IRS this year for making an illegal political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. At the time, Bondi was supposed to be investigating claims that Trump University was a fraudulent organization designed to bilk people out of their money. After receiving the contribution (which she had solicited), Bondi decided to do nothing, effectively giving Trump impunity for ripping off unsuspecting Floridians.

It’s bad enough that Trump’s charity made a political contribution, which was illegal, but check this out:

The Post reported another error, which had the effect of obscuring the political gift from the IRS.

In that year’s tax filings, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation did not notify the IRS of this political donation. Instead, Trump’s foundation listed a donation — also for $25,000 — to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi’s political group. In fact, Trump’s foundation had not given the Kansas group any money.

The prohibited gift was, in effect, replaced with an innocent-sounding but nonexistent donation.

Trump’s business said it was unaware of any of these mistakes until March, when it heard from the watchdog group and The Post.

That’s a very convenient mistake, taking a real illegal contribution and converting it into a legal fictional contribution. It’s almost what an unethical lawyer would come up with as a way to pay off an overly inquisitive Attorney General while minimizing the likelihood of creating any significant legal jeopardy.

But the New York Times seems to think that the Clinton Foundation is a better story, despite the fact that they can’t find anything with even a whiff of the same scandalous nature as the Post has found here on the Trump Foundation.

And, to be clear, the arrangement Trump made with Bondi may have been repeated in Texas. But, unless you watch MSNBC or read the Washington Post or liberal blogs, you wouldn’t know any of this, because it’s not being covered by the New York Times, Fox News or CNN. And even MSNBC has only done one segment on it.

Karl Rove made himself famous by taking his opponent’s strengths (e.g., John Kerry’s military service) and turning them into weaknesses while shifting his own bosses weaknesses (dishonesty) and getting them assigned to Al Gore. But Rove couldn’t do this by himself. He needed the media to go along with it.

So far, it looks like Trump doesn’t even need a Karl Rove to manipulate the press because they’re doing it all by themselves.

The Clinton Foundation is a very large and active charitable organization that has a better rating from Charity Watch than the American Red Cross. The Trump Foundation is a complete fraud:

Trump started the Donald J. Trump Foundation in the late 1980s, to give away proceeds from his book, “The Art of the Deal.” He remains the foundation’s president, but — in recent years — Trump has stopped putting his own money into its coffers. Tax records show no gifts from Trump himself to the foundation since 1988; it has instead received donations from a smattering of Trump’s friends and business associates.

The Trump Foundation has no paid staff and relatively little money for a superwealthy man’s personal charity: At the end of 2014, it had $1.3 million in the bank. The foundation’s giving is small and scattershot, with its gifts often sent to people whom Trump knows, or charities that hold their galas at his properties in New York and Florida.

Finally, even though the press reports that Bernie Sanders will soon hit the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, he’s been more busy providing Trump with talking points with which to bash her.

Donald Trump’s campaign seized on Bernie Sanders’ comments Sunday about Hillary Clinton’s relations to her family foundation, taking license to make them sound more critical of her than he said in a television interview.

In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Sanders downplayed the importance of the controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation, but said he thinks Hillary Clinton should cut ties to it if she beats Trump in November.

“I would certainly suggest that as president of the United States she should cease all operations, all contact, with the Clinton Foundation,” Sanders said.

Citing the “good things with AIDS and so forth” the Clinton Foundation has done, the Vermont senator who challenged Clinton in the Democratic primary, said he “can’t definitively answer” if it should be shut down, or the former secretary of state just shouldn’t be involved.

“At the very least she should not be involved. At the very least,” Sanders said.

That’s some serious surrogacy fail, right there. That’s right up there with Cory Booker blasting President Obama for being critical of Bain Capital.

There may be political reasons why a President Clinton would want to close down the foundation, but there are no reasons on the merits. As president, she’d have better things to do than be involved in its operations, but that doesn’t mean that a squeaky clean A+ rating charity should close its doors just because the New York Times has a bug up its butt.

What’s more important, after all, the people helped and lives saved by the Clinton Foundation or the gnats who keep swarming around it trying to smear and libel its reputation?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.