Every year, sponsored Maseratis, Ferraris, and Cadillacs descend upon Westchester County, New York. They are driving towards the Trump National Golf Club. Every year, a formula is repeated: 18 holes of golf, Hooters waitresses, and a clubhouse dinner. Attendees tend to be C-list celebrities, family friends, and real estate insiders.
However, the real star of the day is Eric Trump. After all, the entire gathering is for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Essentially it’s a fundraiser for children with cancer. Eric Trump has hosted the event for ten years running and he also co-heads the organization.
According to Eric Trump, the best thing about charity is the efficiency. By this, he means that they can use the Trump National Golf Club for free and all the donated money can then be forwarded to helping kids with cancer. There's just one problem. The best case scenario is that his statement is misleading. Worst case, he is blatantly lying and funneling donation money to the Trump organization.
After reviewing Eric Trump Foundation's filings, Trump National Golf Club did not let sponsors use the amenities for free. In fact, the numbers indicated that Trump Organization received more than $1.2 million in undocumented receipts from the Eric Trump Foundation.
Another misleading statement from the Eric Trump Foundation is the claim that the donor's money would be donated to help sick kids. This is not completely true as more than $500,000 of the donated money was forwarded to other charities. Furthermore, these receiving charities are connected to Trump's interests or family members. Four of the receiving charities hold their events at Trump's golf courses.
In all fairness to Eric Trump, it can be argued that he started his foundation with the best of intentions. According to Eric Trump, after visiting various hospitals, he decided to give donation money to St. Jude, the world's best pediatric cancer center. Back in 2007, Eric Trump hosted the first fundraising golf tournament which accumulated $220,000 in donation money.
The Eric Trump Foundation did not employ any staff until 2015, and the annual expense ratio of the foundation was just 13%; a number that is almost half of other charities. The original board included 7 of Eric Trump's friends who also helped selling the tickets.
From 2007 to 2010, the foundation averaged $50,000 according to its tax filings. By 2011, the annual cost jumped to $142,000.
So, what happened?
As it turns out, Donald Trump got wind of Eric Trump Foundation's economics and started charging for the use of Trump's golf courses. According to Ian Gillule, marketing and membership director of Trump National Westchester from 2006 to 2015, Trump said: "Everyone gets billed! Whether he is a Trump or not, he gets billed."
From then on, the annual cost of Eric Trump's foundation quickly ballooned. It was $59,000 in 2012 and $230,000 in 2013. In 2014, the number climbed to $242,000. In 2015, the number got even higher at $322,000. That's not the most disturbing part.
According to Forbes, it's near impossible to account the $322,000 cost to host a golf tournament. Even the former executive at Trump National Westchester said that “if you give them that kind of money to host a golf tournament, they couldn't imagine the things they could do.”