New York's attorney general ordered Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's charitable foundation to immediately stop fundraising in the state, warning that a failure to do so would be a continuing fraud.
For Trump, the cease-and-desist order was the latest in a series of blows that has sent his campaign reeling. The New York businessman and his aides spent much of the weekend pushing back against suggestions that he may not have paid U.S. federal income taxes for almost 20 years.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office said the Donald J. Trump Foundation was violating a state law requiring charitable organizations that solicit outside donations to register with the office's Charities Bureau.
The order followed a series of reports in The Washington Post that suggested improprieties by the foundation, including using its funds to settle legal disputes involving Trump businesses.
The failure immediately to discontinue solicitation and to file information and reports required under Article 7-A with the Charities Bureau shall be deemed to be a continuing fraud upon the people of the state of New York, according to a letter dated on Friday that the office posted online on Monday.
Trump's campaign has suggested that the probe launched by Schneiderman, a Democrat, was politically motivated.
While again putting Trump's campaign on the defensive, the order could also undercut his efforts to make the Clinton Foundation, the family charity of Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton, a primary target in his campaign against her.
Trump has sought to paint the Clinton Foundation as a pay-to-play operation under which the former secretary of state and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, rewarded big donors to the foundation with access.
The scrutiny of the Trump Foundation came as the Republican candidate was dealing with a torrent of bad news, including his shaky performance in first debate with Clinton on Sept. 26 and the release by the New York Times of tax records that showed Trump taking an almost US$1 billion loss in 1995 that may have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
In its series on the Trump Foundation, The Washington Post reported that Trump may have violated U.S. Internal Revenue Service rules against “self-dealing” by using foundation money to purchase two portraits of himself, which were then hung at his private golf clubs in New York and Florida.
The newspaper also said that Trump may have improperly used the foundation to settle legal disputes, including one at the his Palm Beach, Florida estate; diverted income from his business to the charity to avoid paying income tax; and donated foundation money to support Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, who was considering launching an investigation into Trump University, Trump’s for-profit education venture. The foundation ended up paying a $2,500 fine to the IRS for that donation.