Donald Trump used a charitable foundation he controls as a "personal ATM machine," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday, escalating his party’s attack on the Republican presidential nominee over reports that he mixed charitable and business interests.
Reid’s comments follow a report in the Washington Post that Trump used $258,000 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to settle legal disputes, and that he used other foundation money to buy mementos including portraits of himself.
"Self-dealing is when a person spends charity money on themselves," Reid said. "It’s against the law."
Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, defended the foundation, saying there was no intent or motive for the Trump Foundation to make improper payments.
"All contributions are reported to the IRS, and all Foundation donations are publicly disclosed," Miller said in a statement. "Mr. Trump is generous both with his money and with his time. He has provided millions of dollars to fund his Foundation and a multitude of other charitable causes."
The Post’s report focused on two legal disputes that Trump apparently settled using money from the tax-exempt charity.
In 2006, Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida ran into legal trouble when the town of Palm Beach accused it of erecting a flagpole that was higher than local ordinances allowed, and hit the club with fines that eventually amounted to $120,000. The club responded with a lawsuit challenging the fines.
As part of the terms of settling the case the following year, Mar-A-Lago agreed to move the flag and pay $100,000 to a charity jointly selected by him and the town. Trump eventually paid $125,000 -- $100,000 to a veterans group known as Fisher House, and $25,000 to Disabled Veteran’s Life Memorial Foundation.
But copies of the checks provided by the town show that the money was paid by the non-profit Trump foundation, not by Mar-A-Lago or Trump himself.
In the other dispute, the Post reported that a man named Martin Greenberg made a hole-in-one during a charity golf tournament on a Trump course in Westchester County, New York, in 2010, claiming a $1 million prize. After the award was disputed on the grounds that the hole was too short, Greenberg sued. The case was settled after the parties agreed to make a donation to a charity of Greenberg’s choice, the Post reported. On the same day, the Trump foundation gave $158,000 to the Martin Greenberg foundation, the Post said.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign also used the report to call on Trump to release more information about his personal finances.
"Once again, Trump has proven himself a fraud who believes the rules don’t apply to him," Clinton campaign spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in a statement. "It’s past time for him to release his tax returns to show whether his tax issues extend to his own personal finances."