Donald Trump’s Philanthropically Penny-Ante Foundation

April 12, 2011; Source: Christian Science Monitor | Donald Trump is polling at the top of the list of potential Republican challengers for president in 2012 – much of his popularity based on ubiquitous appearances on the Fox News shows of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta van Susteran. Trump's most cited campaign stunt is his search for President Obama's birth certificate.

Even the likes of the very conservative Ann Coulter, appearing on "Hannity," said that that issue was put to bed long ago. The birth certificate exists, she said. Conservative media outlets such as the Weekly Standard and the National Review have said so, and the birthers' suspicions are ludicrous. What’s more, she said, Trump's rebirth as a birther was keeping the nuttiness of the conservatives prominent in the media and hurting Republicans who might win, such as, in her estimation, New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Nonetheless, the Donald appears to be running, which makes his charitable giving open to pop-psychology analysis. In his case, unlike most of his putative opponents, Trump's wealth is in the many millions if not billions, and he has a private foundation with IRS filings to examine.

According to The Smoking Gun, in almost two decades, Trump's foundation has made a grand total of $6.7 million in grants in comparison to his billionaire New York City neighbor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose personal foundation gave out $235 million just in 2008.

The Smoking Gun found that Trump wasn't even the largest donor to his foundation. He donated only $3.7 million from 1990 to 2009, but World Wrestling Entertainment, owned by Vince McMahon, gave $5 million to Trump's foundation in recent years. TSG's conclusion? Trump "may be the least charitable billionaire in the United States."

Or maybe not, but his billionaire companions aren't running for President. Trump's handlers will probably say that he makes out-of-pocket charitable contributions. But having a foundation is a different order of charity. In past elections, the press has tried to make insinuations about the political character of candidates based on their charitable generosity or miserliness.

What do you think Trump’s foundation say about him as a presidential candidate – if anything at all?—Rick Cohen