Donald Trump’s Philanthropically Penny-Ante Foundation

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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

  • Russ Foszcz

    I remember seeing a cable special on Trump years ago that started OUT with his philanthropic background. I remember thinking “hmmmm – not bad”. Then the show continued with stories surrounding his net worth. After doing the math it appeared that Trump’s philanthropy amounted to much less than 1%! Pitiful if you ask me…

  • NoMore

    why don’t you talk about how much Nancy Pelosi or any of the democrats give — bet it is far less in comparison to republicans….. try being non-partison for once. I, for one, am sick of how NPT is so biased toward liberal agendas and fools. How much does Barak Obama do for anyone other than himself???? Geez.

  • rick cohen

    Dear NoMore: thanks for your comment. A couple of responses:

    1. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats–and the Republicans in Congress as well–all release financial disclosure statements about their charitable involvements. We’ll look for Rep. Pelosi’s latest and get back to you.
    2. If you’ve been a longtime reader of NPQ, particularly through the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, we did a lot of coverage of candidates’ connections to the nonprofit sector (do look at what I write about then Senator Obama, for example).
    3. We didn’t focus on their “giving”, as such, we focused on their relationships (through boards, etc.) with specific nonprofits. Our mention of the Donald’s foundation was not because of his giving (which I noted probably is much in excess of the foundation, because he probably gives personally outside of the foundation), but because of the institution of a foundation in the mix (which we mentioned about other candidates in 2008 and 2010).
    4. This was a newswire commenting on the CSM/TSG articles, and we asked the readers what they thought about the legitimacy of inquiries into a candidate’s charitable generosity as a measuring stick for his or her qualifications for public office.
    5. I will take issue with your notion of “Barak (sic) Obama” only doing for himself. Whether it is Obama, Bush, or anyone else, unless they’re kleptomaniacs like Warren Harding, people who serve as president are giving a lot more of themselves than they are getting back. Look at how being in that office ages people, Obama, Clinton, and Bush as examples.
    6. This magazine/site is NPQ, not NPT.

    Thanks again for writing.

  • Anon

    No, Trump is not the one.

  • Judi

    Like many very wealty people, Trump made much of his wealth by using other people’s money … via investments and loans. It also appears that Trump is practicing generousity by using other people’s money. It’s a smart way to do business, but it hardly is indicative of social benevolence.