With the public hearings now ongoing in DC, here’s a quick thought that might help better understand the questions asked and the answers that follow.
For more than 20 years, I’ve served as a board member of a public foundation, sometimes known as a not-for-profit charity. For all board members, it’s imperative we understand the difference between a public purpose and a private purpose. Charities only exist to serve a public purpose.
There are private charities, also known as private foundations, and they too exist to serve a public purpose. Both types, be they private or public, enjoy a special tax status because they serve public purposes. Money transferred to, or gifted to them by others, are considered charitable deductions by the IRS for income tax purposes.
All monies, after accounting for operating expenses, are to be used for public purposes. They cannot be used for private purposes. An example of that might be someone establishing a private foundation to use tax deductible dollars for something that has a private benefit. Doing so, whether by a public or private charity, jeopardizes the tax status of the offending charity.
If you wish to serve as a board member of a public charity and don’t have a fundamental grasp of this concept, you soon will. It’s a fundamental precept associated with the inherent responsibility of any board member. The same understanding drives the acceptable behavior of anyone across these United States elected or appointed to public office. This includes local government up to, and including, members of Congress and the President. If you violate this precept, you subject yourself to penalties.
As you listen to or watch the hearings currently underway in DC, you’ll hear it argued that Trump engaged in actions, and/or behaviors, that conditioned the use of public purpose monies for private purposes. It’s also argued that by not divesting himself of his business empire, he should not use his office to benefit that empire.
I’ve concluded that Trump has no meaningful understanding as a public official, that his only role as President, is to serve a public purpose. He appears to have no understanding or ability to differentiate, or make a distinction between, the two purposes. His insistence that the July 25th conversation was ‘perfect’ serves to reinforce his inability to separate the two. This inability now exposes him to public censure and potential penalties, as outlined in our Constitution. If proven, or established beyond a reasonable doubt, he should be penalized.
As these hearings unfold, I encourage you to filter what you hear and see and ask yourself if Trump and his associates have violated the public trust by commingling, either purposefully, or unwittingly, public purpose with private purpose.
Tony Kendzior \ 14 NOV 19