On Friday, the Huffington Post published a report claiming a dog rescue charity had "funneled" as much as $1.9 million to former President Donald Trump by holding events at his properties over the last seven years and dropped an additional quarter-million at his Mar-a-Lago residence over the weekend.
The article reported that Big Dog Ranch Rescue had links to Lara Trump, wife of the former president's son, Eric Trump. Citing a permit from the town of Palm Beach, Florida, the report said the charity paid Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago $225,000 for a fundraising event held at the resort, where Trump has taken up full-time residence since leaving the White House and all the money eventually "winds up in his pocket."
The article also reported that according to Internal Revenue Service filings, the charity has spent as much as $1,883,160 as "fundraising costs at Mar-a-Lago and Trump's golf course 18 miles north in Jupiter starting in 2014."
As pointed out by fact-checking website Snopes it is true that the Florida-based dog rescue held a 2021 fundraising event called "Women, Wine, and Shoes" at Mar-a-Lago on March 12 and March 13. The website also confirmed that Lara partnered with the charity to act as co-chair of the event and that the charity has held other fundraising events at the country club, as well as at Trump's golf club in Jupiter, Florida.
However, the charity disputes the claim that it paid the Trump-owned resort $225,000, and a non-profit tax expert said that Lara's role in hosting the event does not appear to be breaking any laws governing charities. Lauree Simmons, founder and president of the group, said in a statement to Snopes that the charity did pay Mar-a-Lago but not the figure quoted in the Huffington Post article.
"The contract from The Mar-a-Lago Club is, and was, for every year the fundraiser has been held, less than half," Simmons said. A permit application for the event obtained by Snopes shows that the event's organizers listed $225,000 as the total cost estimated for the event, but the expenses are not itemized.
Therefore, we do not know whether other expenses may have been included in that estimation, or whether there were other payments to vendors or contractors besides Mar-a-Lago included.
Simmons also noted that Lara has been associated with her charity since 2018 and the Mar-a-Lago has been used as a venue for fundraising events for eight years, long before Trump's daughter-in-law started getting involved with the non-profit.
According to Philip Hackney, associate professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh and a specialist in laws that govern nonprofits, Lara was only involved with the charity in terms of chairing a fundraiser and not in an officer or director's capacity. Only people in these positions are in charge of decisions related to holding a fundraising event at Mar-a-Lago and the dog charity's decision to keep the resort as their venue for the vent seems to be more a matter of branding.
Trump Family's Questionable Financial Dealings
This is not the first time a charity headed by a Trump family member has come under scrutiny over its questionable financial dealings. In 2017, the Eric Trump Foundation was accused of shifting money to his father's business entity the Trump Organization from donors who believed the money was going to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
In 2019 a New York judge ordered Donald Trump's personal foundation to pay $2 million to settle claims that the foundation misused donations raised for veterans to fund political campaign expenditures.
Over the course of his presidency, Donald Trump funneled $8.5 million of Republican donor money into his own cash registers by directing spending by the entities he controlled, including the Republican National Committee, toward his own businesses