The backstory on this story is probably pretty well known by now. Right smack dab in the middle of the Florida Attorney General’s Office making a decision on whether to pursue a case against Trump University for Fraud, the Trump Foundation made a sizeable donation to a Super PAC backing Florida AG Pam Bondi. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the State of Florida decided not to pursue a case against Trump or Trump University.
Now, Pam Bondi has endorsed Donald Trump.
It turns out, however, that this gift was not just (at least apparent) quid-pro-quo corruption, but was also illegal because of Trump’s failure to disclose it on the Trump Foundation tax returns. These disclosures are vital to allow the IRS to determine if tax exempt organizations are engaging in political activity as their “primary purpose” and thus are supposed to have their tax exempt status revoked.
Team Trump’s response to this? Oops, our bad, completely harmless error:
Donald Trump’s campaign said Tuesday that a series of clerical mistakes is responsible for an apparent failure by Trump’s foundation to report a political donation on its taxes.
Trump donated $25,000 from his foundation, which as a nonprofit is not supposed to aid political candidates, to a group backing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013. The money came under scrutiny at the time because Trump donated the money just days after Bondi announced she was investigating complaints surrounding Trump’s real estate school, Trump University.
But Monday, the good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also filed a complaint with the IRS because it says the Trump Foundation didn’t report the donation on its tax returns.
“The apparent failure to tell the IRS about this political activity makes matters worse and is something we’ve seen too many organizations doing lately,” the CREW complaint said.
Trump’s team said Tuesday it didn’t learn about the error until the complaint was filed, as first reported by The Washington Post.
The reporting issue was due to a “series of unfortunate coincidences and errors,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said.
A few things about this. First, recall that when Ted Cruz reported his loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank on the wrong disclosure form, Trump spent about three solid weeks hyperventilating into every microphone he could find that Cruz was trying to hide… well, information that he had publicly disclosed, just on the wrong form. So for his team to take the “Whoops, honest mistake” when their own illegal donation was not reported at all is pretty rich.
Second, the entire appeal of Trump is that he runs a tight organization and hires the very best people. If this was an honest mistake, it was a catastrophically stupid one, and reflects poorly on the hiring practices of the Trump organization.
But then, the Trump campaign already employs Corey Lewandowski and Katrina Pierson, so you already knew that.