While the media has rightfully been lambasted in recent weeks for creating a false equivalency between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the double standard is not entirely the fault of the media. It’s not easy to cover Trump, because of the sheer number of scandals, gaffes, and lies endemic to his campaign. With Clinton, there are basically two scandals: The private email server and the Clinton Foundation, and that’s all we’ve heard about for the last year and a half when it comes to Clinton? Why? Because that’s all there is. Being implicated in only two scandals has also been something of a detriment, because the portion of the media covering the Clinton campaign has been able to sink its teeth into those scandals, do some really deep work, and spend months and months investigating and reporting on them. Where it concerns the private email server and the Clinton Foundation, the media has been beating those drums over and over and over, because it’s the only drums they have, although it says something that — after a year and a half — neither the media nor Congress has really mustered much of anything that has stuck.
On the other hand, where it concerns Trump, there’s been no shortage of scandals. When there’s 5 new lies, improprieties, and scandals every single day, the portion of the media that covers Trump gets so preoccupied with new revelations that it never gets an opportunity to zero in on already existing ones. There has been plenty of negative Trump coverage, but the reporting is thin. Superficial. No one has done the work of finding one issue or one scandal and investigating the hell out if.
Except David A. Fahrenthold and The Washington Post.
Unless you follow the political coverage obsessively, Fahrenthold might not be a name that rings any bells, but there’s a chance — an increasing one — that by November, Fahrenthold could be the Woodward and Bernstein of this election. He’s been pursuing the Trump Foundation for months, and he’s been doing a bang up job of it. Unfortunately, much of his reporting tends to get lost in the breathless news cycle.
For instance, Fahrenthold’s most damning piece yet was published on Sunday, the day that the media decided to turn its attention to #HillarysHealth. Fahrenthold’s piece ended up getting buried because lies about a charitable foundation are not as sexy or immediate as a pneumonia diagnosis.
Yesterday, however, some news broke that may finally elevate the issue into a full-blown scandal that the rest of the media — piggybacking on Fahrenthold’s work — might actually sink its teeth into. The New York Attorney General admitted that he was investigating the Trump Foundation for improprieties.
What AG Eric Schneiderman is likely to find is what Fahrenthold has essentially found: That Donald Trump uses his family foundation to launder money and self-deal. As his reporting has shown, Donald Trump hasn’t made a single contribution to his own family foundation since 2008, but he has managed to use other people’s money to make “charitable” donations and take credit for it. Many of those donations are banal, but some of those donations are downright sketchy.
The one that’s getting most of the attention — and the one most likely to get Trump into legal hot water — is the one to Florida’s AG Pam Bondi. He gave her $25,000, and he essentially made Florida’s potential investigation into Trump University go away. There were a number of problems with that donation, however. For one, non-profits aren’t allowed to donate to political campaigns, but also, Trump went through a number of hoops in an attempt to hide the donation from the IRS and government authorities. They found out. He paid a fine, and it might otherwise be the end of the story except for the obvious pay-to-play implications.
There’s also the fact that he spent $20,000 of his foundation’s money — other people’s money — to buy a painting of himself, and $12,000 to buy an autographed Tim Tebow football. Those are the funny/headline worthy details, but dig deeper, and there’s some super shady, self-dealing business going on.
For instance, Donald Trump solicited the Charles Evans Foundation for $150,000 in an effort to raise money for the Palm Beach Police Foundation. It turns out that the only contribution that Trump made to the Palm Beach Police Foundation was the $150,000 he received from the Charles Evans foundation. It’s not illegal to take credit for someone else’s money, but the twist is this: When the Palm Beach Police Foundation decided to honor Donald Trump for the $150,000 donations he got from someone else, it rented Trump’s Mar-a-Lago to hold a gala event to honor him at a cost of $275,000.
Trump actually made money on his charitable contribution.
It also seems that many — maybe most — of Trump’s charitable contributions go to organizations that turn around and provide something of value to him, like rent his ballrooms or use his golf courses.There’s also the fact that his biggest donor in recent years — Richie Ebers — is a ticket scalper. What does Trump get out of that? Or the fact that Prestige Mills — a carpet company that cleans many of Trump’s properties — has donated $64,000 to the Trump Foundation.
All of this information (and much more) has been uncovered by, more or less, one man: David A. Fahrenthold. What happens when the rest of the media finally turn to the story? How much is likely to come to the surface?
There’s also the fact that Trump says he has made charitable donations in the tens of millions, but there is absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever. None. Zero. His foundation has never even had tens of millions of dollars.
These revelations are damning — they show a pattern of self-dealing, a concerted effort to use his charity as a tax dodge, repeated lies, and a means for Trump to finance his own celebrity — but they are not flashy. With a guy like Trump, who breathes fabrications and hyperbole, it’s hard for a story like this to break through. But slowly and surely — in drips and drabs — it’s beginning to see the light, and in the end, it may be to Donald Trump what tax evasion charges were to Al Capone: The boring scandal that finally took him down.
Dustin Rowles continues to refuse to post images of Donald Trump. The above photo is of Rose McIver, because he recently binged through season 2 of iZombie and he may be a little smitten. You can follow him on Twitter.