When the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday it was directing the Trump Foundation to cease and desist accepting donations, the spokeswoman for Republican nominee Donald Trump immediately expressed concerns about "political motives." The comments were a clear allusion to the fact that Schneiderman is a supporter of Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, even serving as a member of her New York "leadership council."
The Trump Foundation has come under scrutiny, largely from reports in the Washington Post that found the nominee "used his charity’s money to make a political gift, to buy paintings of himself and to settle legal disputes involving his for-profit businesses." The state's attorney general's office later found that the foundation had never obtained the certification required for charities to solicit money from the public in New York. The Trump Foundation ran no programs of its own, instead donating money to other nonprofit groups.
A notice from Schneiderman's office Monday found that the Trump Foundation solicited funds this year despite being "in violation of section 172 of Article 7-A New York's Executive Law, which requires charitable organizations that solicit contributions in New York State to register with the Charities Bureau and to provide annual financial reports and annual audited financial statements."
Trump supporters are likely to be skeptical of Schneiderman's motivations, however, considering he was one of the top-line names on Clinton's 100-person New York leadership council, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul and Sen. Charles Schumer.
The campaign said in October of last year, when the council was formed, that the group would serve "as the in-state leadership for the campaign, amplifying the campaign’s national voice to New York families aiding the campaign with rapid response, organization building, grassroots organizing events, recruiting volunteer leaders, and identifying leaders for Get Out The Vote activities."
The Sunlight Foundation also pointed out that Schneiderman donated $2,700, the maximum personal contribution amount allowed, to Clinton last year and hosted a fundraiser for her. The non-profit group said Schneiderman was making a "glaring omission" for not forcing the Clinton’s Health Access Initiative to publicly disclose gifts from foreign governments. This led the New York Post editorial board — which is conservative and endorsed Trump in the GOP primaries — to label Schneiderman a "hypocrite."
Schneiderman's office ordered the Trump Foundation Monday to provide, within 15 days, all the necessary legal paperwork for charities to solicit donations. Failure to provide the paperwork or failure to stop fundraising would be considered "a continuing fraud upon the people of New York," wrote James Sheehan, head of the attorney general's charities bureau, in the notice to the foundation.
"While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind A.G. Schneiderman’s investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation," said Hope Hicks, Trump's spokeswoman, in a statement.
Schneiderman was elected as New York state's top law enforcement officer in November 2010. He has taken on a number of high-profile investigations, including the Trump Foundation and Trump University as well as looking into the daily fantasy sports websites FanDuel and DraftKings. These "high profile cases have people wondering about Schneiderman's ambitions," including a possible run for governor of New York, wrote WNYC.