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Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu September 14, 2016

No, Donald Trump's foundation money does not come from him

Donald Trump is facing questions about the work of his personal foundation.

Campaigning for Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama accurately said Trump’s charity purchased a six-foot-tall painting of himself. A day before Obama’s speech, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway touted Trump’s altruism in an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota:

Conway: "Donald Trump has been incredibly generous over the course of his life."

Camerota: "With his own money?"

Conway: "With his own money, and his foundation's money — which is his money."

Camerota: "No, the foundation's money are other people's.

Conway: "Okay. He's been incredibly generous. I mean, are we going to actually question -- Hillary Clinton and her husband made almost a quarter of a billion dollars and we're supposed to just question -- and that's okay."

Conway made a point to tell Camerota and viewers that the Donald J. Trump foundation’s money comes from Trump. But that’s at odds at reporting we’ve seen, so we wanted to take a deeper look.

Trump has yet to release his tax returns or provide evidence of his charitable giving, so it’s impossible to know how much he’s directly donated. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has been trying to track down Trump’s donations for months with little success.

Fahrenthold has determined, however, how much money Trump has donated to his foundation by reviewing the foundation’s IRS documents. Based on his reporting, Conway’s claim is inaccurate.

"Donald J. Trump Foundation is Trump’s money, his campaign manager says. No," Fahrenthold wrote in a Washington Post article.

We reviewed the Trump Foundation Form 990s ourselves and verified Fahrenthold’s conclusion.

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From 1987, when Trump created the foundation to donate some of his Art of the Deal proceeds, to 2006, Trump was its main contributor. In those three decades, his gifts averaged about $250,000, with the largest one reaching $1 million in 1989.

In 2007, Trump gave $35,000, which accounted for about 0.9 percent of the total donations received that year (World Wrestling Entertainment alone gave $4 million). In 2008, he gave $30,000. And then he stopped giving altogether.

Here are two charts showing how Trump’s donations to his foundation compare to others’ gifts:

What about the possibility that the money the foundation currently has still belongs to Trump? Fahrenthold told us that doesn’t add up.

"Trump Foundation began 2007 with just $4,238 in the bank. That wasn’t all Trump’s money, but for the sake of argument let’s assume it was. Since then, the available tax records show Trump has given just $65,000, and nothing since 2008. Other donors have given $8.9 million in that time, covering 2007 to 2014," he said.

By 1995, a year after the foundation received its first non-Trump donation, the Republican nominee’s own money actually stopped being enough to cover his foundation’s charitable giving. And by 2014, the Trump Foundation had given a total of $13.5 million dollars while Trump himself had given it a total of $5.4 million.

It’s possible that Trump gave more of his own money to the foundation in 2015 and 2016, but the tax forms for those years are not yet available. Fahrenthold told us he’s asked the Trump campaign for clarification but hasn’t received a response. We asked as well and haven’t heard back.

The ruling

Conway said the Donald J.Trump Foundation's money "is his money."

That may have been accurate several years ago, but no longer. Tax records show Trump hasn’t given to the foundation since 2008.

We rate Conway’s claim False.

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No, Donald Trump's foundation money does not come from him

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