The Donald J. Trump Foundation has been ordered by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to cease fundraising operations in the state. Failure to comply with the order, and provide the office with necessary documents, will be considered a “fraud,” according to a letter sent to the foundation.
James G. Sheehan, chief of the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s (NYAG) Charities Bureau, notified foundation representatives in a letter dated Sept. 30 that the foundation is in violation of section 172 of Article 7-A of New York’s Executive Law. The rule requires that organizations soliciting charitable contributions in the state register with the bureau and provide annual financial reports and audited financial statements. Despite not being registered for the year 2016, the foundation has engaged in fundraising activities in the state this year, Sheehan said in the letter.
Sheehan’s letter further instructs the foundation to cease soliciting contributions and engaging in fundraising activities in the state and to notify any third parties fundraising on behalf of the foundation in the state that such efforts must stop immediately.
The foundation has been instructed to provide the bureau with the necessary information detailed in section 172 within 15 days. Such information, according to the NYAG site, includes basic contact information, operative organization documents, descriptions of specific programs, names and addresses of any professional fundraisers, a copy of the annual report from the most recent concluded fiscal year, information disclosing whether any other governmental authority has authorized the organization to solicit contributions, and whether any officers, directors, executive personnel or trustees have been penalized for engaging in unlawful solicitation practices.
To the extent that the Donald J. Trump Foundation has solicited donations in previous years, all delinquent financial reports must also be submitted within 15 days, according to the letter. Failure to provide the requested information and to cease fundraising “shall be deemed to be a continuing fraud upon the people of the state of New York,” Sheehan wrote.
A phone call left for Jeffrey McConney, senior vice president and controller at The Trump Organization, was not immediately returned.
The order is the latest turn in NYAG’s investigation of the foundation, which has been active for at least the past four months. Schneiderman, in a letter to the foundation dated June 9, reviewed prohibitions placed on 501(c)(3) organizations from donating to political candidates or committees. Schneiderman then acknowledged a $25,000 gift made by the foundation on Sept. 7, 2013 to a group called And Justice For All, citing Florida Department of State public campaign finance records.
Multiple media outlets have noted that And Justice For All supported Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s 2013 campaign. Bondi, at the time of the donation, was deciding whether to pursue an investigation into Trump University. A formal investigation never commenced.
In a response letter, the foundation’s treasurer explained that the contribution was “due to a case of mistaken identity involving organizations with the same name.” A later letter submitted, among other documents, a copy of the payment to And Justice For All, a copy of the reimbursement payment made to the foundation, instructions and guidelines regarding tax rules subsequently provided to foundation officers, directors and staff, and a record of payment for the $2,500 excise tax paid to the Internal Revenue Service due to the unlawful donation, per the request of NYAG officers.
A Charities Bureau representative told The NonProfit Times last month that the NYAG investigation into the foundation was regarding “not just one transaction, it’s a broader concern.” Asked for a follow-up on Monday, the representative would only say that the investigation is ongoing.