Trump Foundation sued over violations
NY attorney general claims in lawsuit that charity broke US election campaign law
New York: The New York state attorney general's office filed a scathingly worded lawsuit on Thursday taking aim at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.
The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the foundation and bar President Trump and three of his children from serving on non-profit organisations, was an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting President.
The attorney general also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action, adding to Trump's extensive legal challenges.
The lawsuit, filed in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, culminated a nearly two-year investigation of Trump's charity, which became a subject of scrutiny during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.
While such foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities, the petition asserts that Trump's was often used to settle legal claims against his various businesses, even spending $10,000 on a portrait of Trump that was hung at one of his golf clubs.
The foundation was also used to curry political favour, the lawsuit asserts. During the 2016 race, the foundation became a virtual arm of Trump's campaign, email traffic showed, with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing its expenditures, even though such foundations are explicitly prohibited from political activities.
Trump immediately attacked the lawsuit, characterising it in a Twitter post as an attempt by the "sleazy New York Democrats" to damage him by suing the foundation, vowing not to settle the case.
The $10,000 portrait was one of several examples of the foundation being used in "at least five self-dealing transactions", according to the attorney general's office, violating tax regulations that prohibit using nonprofit charities for private interests.
In 2007, to settle a dispute between the City of Palm Beach and Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, the foundation paid $100,000 to the Fisher House Foundation, another charity.
In 2012, a man named Martin B. Greenberg sued the Trump National Golf Club after he made a hole-in-one at a fund-raising golf tournament that had promised to pay $1 million to golfers who aced the 13th hole, as he did.
As part of a settlement, the charitable foundation paid $158,000 to a foundation run by Greenberg.
The foundation also paid $5,000 to one organisation for "promotional space featuring Trump International Hotels".
NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE