Baby steps toward rebuilding the Trump Foundation brand

Baby steps toward rebuilding the Trump Foundation brand
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Thursday's announcement that New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has filed suit against President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE, two of his sons and a daughter, alleging “persistent illegal conduct,” probably came as somewhat of a shock. It appears as if their foundation could use some help understanding the difference between charitable giving and self-dealing.

If it was only possible to identify some worthy recipients for the Trump Foundation’s giving, it would be a huge help in rebuilding its brand. And we all know the president cares a lot about his brand.

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It can be hard to find poor people or worthy causes to support. The walls at Trump’s Doral Golf Resort and at Trump National Golf Club Westchester did look a little bare, so using foundation money to buy portraits of our fearless leader (and future Nobel laureate) is understandable.

Giving $100,000 of charitable money to Palm Beach so Trump could get his oversized flagpole at Mar-a-Lago approved really was a small price to pay. And I’m sure it was just coincidental that Trump campaign officials directed the foundation to give to Iowa nonprofits days before the Iowa caucuses.

If anything, the foundation should be applauded for such gifts. As we know President Trump is nothing if not direct so the foundation must be direct as well: Iowa, good; big patriotic poles, good; plastering Trump’s image everywhere, good.

The Trump Foundation, for less than the cost of an oversized flagpole, could do a lot to rebuild its brand by giving to the needy. I know that sounds distasteful but I am not suggesting that President Trump travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to Southeast D.C. to meet or, shudder, to shake hands with poor people. (President Obama did just that, so we know it is a bad idea.)

No, what I am suggesting is that in between golf rounds, Trump consider those less fortunate. Heck, he may even be golfing with such a person: Rumor has it that one of his cabinet secretaries can barely afford D.C. rent, so go ahead and buy Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittWhat has EPA been hiding about formaldehyde? Overnight Energy: Trump officials suspend oil, gas production on Utah plots after lawsuit | California bucks Trump on lightbulb rollback | Scientists join Dems in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule MORE a Trump mattress. Pruitt loves Chick-Fil-A, so perhaps throw in a gift card or two. Though these may not be legal uses of charitable funds either, I recommend taking small steps first and build up to helping the poor.

Judging only by Trump’s employment practices at Mar-a-Lago, it appears he loves immigrant workers. After all, he routinely staffs Mar-a-Lago with foreign workers, mainly from Haiti, who benefit from special work permits granted to the club. Good help is hard to find, apparently, and the club — known for hosting great parties and providing the best after-dinner entertainment — cannot be expected to pay the high wages demanded by Americans. I get that. All I am saying is that the Trump Foundation could turn its attention from decorating the walls of Trump properties to supporting those who clean the walls and serve the president.

Self-dealing limits are the sort of complicated legal requirement that only little people take seriously. But I would not concern yourself too much with such laws; after all, I am sure President Trump will forgive you if you get in trouble. If Joe Arpaio is above the law, likely you are as well.

No one is asking the Trump Foundation (or other charities connected to rich people, for that matter) to focus their resources on helping the poor. Just this month, for example, I heard about asylum-seeking families being ripped apart by immigration officials, young children forcibly separated from parents. Leave concerns about immigrant families to the Catholics. I only bring it up because if the Trump Foundation gave money for immigrant legal defense, it could make a strong claim that it is taking seriously the responsibility to avoid self-dealing.

Running a charity is hard work and, like our fearless leader, I am convinced these allegations are all just the work of “sleazy New York Democrats.” This will all blow over soon, I am sure, and politics will return to more important matters — but in the meantime, I hope the charity does a better job fulfilling its core mission: Making Trump look good.

Ezra Rosser is a law professor at American University Washington College of Law. You can follow him on Twitter @EzraRosser.