The New York attorney general is looking into a Forbes magazine report that Eric Trump’s charity spent large sums hosting fundraisers at Trump resorts after telling donors their money would go directly to research childhood cancer.
Forbes reported that as much as $1.2 million raised by the Eric Trump Foundation to fight children’s cancer was paid to Trump Organization properties over the last seven years, primarily for an annual event at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York. Eric Trump told donors all contributions would go directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and that the fundraising events were staged at Trump properties for free, Forbes reported.
“We get to use our assets 100 percent free of charge,” Eric Trump told Forbes in the report, published online Thursday.
“That’s not the case,” declared the Forbes article, which reported that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid to the Trump golf course at what experts said was inflated fees. An additional $500,000 in contributions have been “re-gifted” to other charities that were either linked to Trump family members or went to pay for other events at Trump properties, according to Forbes.
Charities cannot legally funnel tax-free donations to benefit for-profit companies.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is examining how the funds were spent. “We are looking into issues at the foundation raised by the report,” Schneiderman’s office said a statement.
A spokesman for the Eric Trump Foundation told Bloomberg on Friday that the organization will cooperate with the attorney general’s inquiry.
In 2011, costs for Eric Trump’s annual fundraising tournament jumped from $46,000 to $142,000, according to the foundation’s IRS filings, Forbes reported. By 2015, costs rose to $322,000.
A statement released on behalf of the charity and Eric Trump after the Forbes story appeared said that the foundation has “raised over $16.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”
“Contrary to recent reports, at no time did the Trump Organization profit in any way from the foundation or any of its activities,” the statement continued. “While people can disagree on political issues, to infer malicious intent on a charity that has changed so many lives, is not only shameful but is truly disgusting.”
Eric Trump, President Donald Trump’s middle son, announced last year that he was ceasing direct fundraising through his foundation “to avoid the appearance or assertion of any impropriety and/or a conflict of interest.”
His fundraising stirred controversy following his father’s election when he and his older brother, Donald Trump Jr., launched a plan to auction off presidential inauguration tickets to raise money for unnamed “conservation charities.”
Donors to the “Opening Day 2017” event were promised in a brochure a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,” a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for four guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team,” and tickets to other inauguration events.
Eric Trump also helped in auctioning a private coffee chat with his sister, Ivanka Trump, for two people for $50,000 that was supposed to go to his charity. After a surge of criticism for selling access to the president-elect’s family, Trump dropped the plan.
The president’s own charity was investigated last year by Schneiderman after The Washington Post discovered that some donations had been used to settle a lawsuit against the Trump Organization and to purchase a large portrait of Trump that reportedly hangs in one of his golf resorts.
Another portrait of Trump was created by artist George Rodrique after the George Rodrique Foundation of the Arts received a $25,000 check from the Eric Trump Foundation, according to Forbes. That portrait was spotted hanging on the wall of Eric Trump’s home in a 2014 photograph, Forbes reported.
The president shut down his charity last year. Schneiderman is continuing to investigate it.
CORRECTION: Due to an editorial error, this article initially misstated Eric Schneiderman’s given name as “Andrew.”