Federal prosecutors in New York are circling Donald Trump’s inaugural committee as part of a wide-ranging investigation into possible money laundering, illegal contributions and cash-for-access schemes. Now, WNYC and ProPublica have identified evidence of potential tax law violations by the committee.
A spokesman confirmed that the nonprofit 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee paid the Trump International Hotel a rate of $175,000 per day for event space — in spite of internal objections at the time that the rate was far too high. If the committee is deemed by auditors or prosecutors to have paid an above-market rate, that could violate tax laws prohibiting self-dealing, according to experts.
Tax law prohibits nonprofits from paying inflated prices to entities that are owned by people who also control or influence the nonprofit’s activities.
“Every legitimate nonprofit is very concerned with this,” said Doug White, a veteran adviser to tax exempt organizations, speaking generally. “You’re benefiting a private person, and you’re using the nonprofit to do it.”
The inaugural committee also spent at least $1.5 million at a hotel in which the investment firm of the committee’s chairman, Tom Barrack, held a small stake.
In addition, the inaugural nonprofit appears not to have disclosed multiple gifts to the committee on its tax return, as required by law.
Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $100 million, almost twice the amount spent on the next-most expensive inaugural party, that of Barack Obama in 2009. In addition to probing how the nonprofit spent its money, investigators are examining whether the inaugural received improper donations from foreigners. Inaugural nonprofits are prohibited from receiving donations from people who are not U.S. citizens.
The committee paid a total of $700,000 to the Trump International Hotel for event spaces for four days in January…