Franklin Graham, CPAC, and other right fringe groups benefited from donations from Trump’s bogus foundation. And that, to put it plainly is why they support him. Proving once again that the love of money is the root of all evil.
From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation’s tax filings found. In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.
Although sources familiar with the thinking behind the donations cautioned that Trump did not explicitly ask for favors in return for the money, they said the contributions were part of a deliberate effort by Trump to ingratiate himself with influential conservatives and brighten his political prospects.
“He was politically active starting in 2011,” said one source with ties to Trump, and at that point he “started to make strategic donations.”
The Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, for example, might have seemed an unusual political ally for the brash mogul from New York — but in April 2011, Graham began to publicly express support for the celebrity businessman as Trump weighed a bid for president.
“When I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, ‘Well, this has got to be a joke,’” Graham told ABC News at the time. “But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, ‘You know, maybe the guy’s right.’”
Sometime in 2012, Trump used his foundation to send $100,000 to Graham’s association — one of the largest donations the foundation would make to any group that year.
In 2013, Trump took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, outside of Washington, D.C., where he touted his business record, railed against President Obama’s policies, and declared: “We have to make America great again.”
That same year, Trump used his foundation to donate $50,000 to the American Conservative Union Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the group that organizes CPAC and sets its program. He did not ask for a speaking slot in return, but he did not need to.
“Everyone’s too smart to say, ‘Donate and we’ll let you speak,’” said one source familiar with the donation. “It was kind of understood.”
Trump was also listed as a CPAC sponsor in 2015, in the immediate lead-up to his presidential campaign. ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp did not respond to an email from RCP asking whether Trump’s foundation footed the bill or he did.