Philanthropy by the First Family is under scrutiny again. This time it is charity golf outings at Trump properties staged by the son of President Donald J. Trump.
The Eric Trump Foundation’s annual charity golf outing benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital began at Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. in 2007. It had been asserted by Eric Trump that the golf course was being used free of charge, according to Forbes. However, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents show that the expenses related to the event averaged about $50,000 per year from 2007 through 2010 and ballooned thereafter.
Forbes also reported that more than $500,000 raised by the event was eventually donated to other charitable causes, including four organizations that later paid to host events at Trump golf courses. Another $100,000 was directed to the Trump Organization to cover expenses for the event, according to Forbes.
The cost to host the charity outing climbed in recent years, according to Forbes, which cited the foundation’s tax filings:
* $46,000 in 2010;
* $142,000 in 2011;
* $59,000 in 2012;
* $230,000 in 2013;
* $242,000 in 2014; and,
* $322,000 in 2015.
As the cost of the annual golf outing increased, so did the revenue and assets of the Eric Trump Foundation, according to federal Form 990 filings:
* Revenue of $512,246 and assets of $14,617 in 2010;
* Revenue of $1.06 million, assets of $43,724 in 2011;
* Revenue of $2.22 million, assets of $225,959 in 2012;
* Revenue of $1.12 million, assets of $16,801 in 2013;
* Revenue of $1.53 million, assets of $116,445 in 2014; and,
* Revenue of $1.78 million, assets of $105,272 in 2015.
The highs in 2012 took place during the year in which reported expenses were the lowest in the previous five reported years.
A former foundation board member confirmed to Forbes that the younger Trump was billed for the event by the Trump Organization.
A call placed by The NonProfit Times to the foundation, which is a public charity and not a private foundation, was not returned.
There are one million golf outings of 40 players or more each year in the United States, according to the Golf Tournament Association of America (GTAA). More than half of them average entry fees anywhere from $25 to $150, with the average around $150. The average amount grossed is $37,000, with average net revenue of $11,000. Only 1 percent of tournaments gross more than $300,000, according to GTAA.
“Claims of illegality of the arrangement have little supporting evidence,” according to Brian Mittendorf, chairman of the Department of Accounting and MIS at the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. “Claims that it reflects poorly on the Trump org more grounded,” he said via Twitter.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation was hit with accusations of self-dealing last year during the presidential campaign, including purchases for items at Trump properties, such as a portrait of now-President Donald Trump and a football helmet signed by former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. A private foundation, it operates under different rules than a public charity.
A primary beneficiary of the Eric Trump Foundation’s fundraising historically has been Memphis, Tenn.-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, receiving some $16 million over the years.
ALSAC / St. Jude is among the largest charities in the country, reporting more than $1.2 billion in total revenue for the fiscal year ending June 2016. The organization reported $6 million raised from almost 150 fundraising events but more than $1.11 billion from gifts, grants and similar amounts, on its federal Form 990.
The annual Patrick Warburton Celebrity Golf Tournament is the top grossing golf tournament for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The event raised $2.27 million during a weekend in March that saw 260 golfers hit the links and 730 guests attend Saturday night dinner, as well as performances by Huey Lewis and Michael Bolton, among others, at the JW Marriott Desert Springs.
The St. Jude Fairways for Hope, presented by Zurich, will be held at Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club in Fort Washington, Pa., on Monday. Tickets for a foursome run $2,500 with sponsorships ranging from $1,000 for a hole sponsor to $20,000 for an exclusive presenting sponsor.
Email messages and a voicemail message to St. Jude seeking comment were not returned.
The Eric Trump Foundation event typically hosted about 200 participants, and more for dinner, according to Forbes. A representative of the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., host of three PGA Championships, two Senior PGA Championships, and a Ryder Cup, declined to provide pricing information but explained that apples-to-apples comparisons of golf courses might be difficult. Amenities, and therefore costs, can range drastically from club-to-club, the representative said. Representatives from several other clubs either did not return phone messages or declined to provide pricing information.
Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y., which has hosted three PGA Championships (most recently in 2013), three U.S. Opens (most recently in 1989), and a Ryder Cup (1995), charges a base package $595 per person for its more heralded East Course and $495 per head for its West Course, according to a spokesperson. The package includes lunch and dinner and requires a minimum of 72 participants and a maximum of 144 — placing the maximum base-package cost at $85,680.
The questions arising around the Eric Trump Foundation are the latest in series of controversies relating to the family’s charitable activities. The Donald J. Trump Foundation has previously come under fire on numerous occasions including the elder Trump himself not contributing to it from 2009 through 2014 and expenditures including the purchase of a portrait of the elder Trump and a football helmet signed by former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
In 2013, the foundation made a gift of $25,000 to a group called And Justice For All, which supported Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s 2013 campaign. Bondi, at the time, was deciding whether or not to pursue an investigation into Trump University — a formal investigation never commencing. The foundation was later reimbursed and a $2,500 excise tax was paid to the IRS, according to correspondence between the foundation and the New York Attorney General’s Office. Trump ended up paying $25 million to settle claims against Trump University.
Still, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into the foundation. On Sept. 30, the foundation was ordered to cease conducting fundraising activities in the state due to violation of section 172 of Article 7-A of New York’s Executive Law, which requires organizations soliciting charitable contributions in the state to register with the Charities Bureau and provide annual financial reports and audited financial statements. In December, Trump sought to dissolve the foundation, he said, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, however, Schneiderman’s office said the foundation could not be dissolved until the investigation was completed.
“The Attorney General’s investigation into the Trump Foundation remains ongoing,” Amy Spitalnick, press secretary, said in an email Wednesday afternoon. “The foundation’s fundraising has been suspended since the Attorney General issued a notice of violation last fall, and it cannot legally dissolve until our investigation is