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  • U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016.

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 December 2016

Without releasing his tax records, it's difficult to know a real figure, though it appears most of Trump's charity has gone to himself.

As a Donald Trump presidency looms, his claims of donating millions of dollars to charitable causes has been debunked by a months-long Washington Post investigation that concluded his philanthropy has been nothing but a well-constructed “facade.”

Trump "spent years constructing an image as a philanthropist by appearing at charity events and by making very public — even nationally televised — promises to give his own money away,” concluded Post reporter David. A. Fahrenthold. “It was, in large part, a facade."

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Since Trump has refused to release his tax records, it’s hard to confirm exactly how much Trump has actually given.

However, after contacting over 420 charities somehow connected to Trump, the Post’s investigation concluded that only about $7.8 million came out of his own pockets since the early 1980s. About 70 percent of it went to his own charity – the Donald J. Trump Foundation, started in 1987. The last verified donation was to the Police Athletic League of New York City in 2009 for just under $10,000.

“In public appearances, Trump often made it appear that he gave far more,” the Post reports.

Ironically, only the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which he promised to dissolve as he takes over the presidency, has been the main recipient of his own money as well as that of others. While the Post found that Trump had only given about $5.5 million over his entire life to the supposedly small, philanthropic foundation, nearly US$10 million came from external donors.

That fact is even more troublesome after new findings revealed that most of the foundation’s money has been used to further Trump’s campaign and presidency, with $264,631, for instance, used to renovate a fountain outside Trump’s Plaza Hotel.

Not surprisingly, the foundation is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General over accusations of fraud stemming from personal use of the funds for lawsuit settlements and other petty, personal expenses.

On Saturday, apparently trying to avoid the obvious conflict of interest, Trump said he would be dissolving the foundation. Though he's given no indication as to when that will happen, a spokesperson for the New York attorney general's office said that while the foundation is being investigated, Trump cannot legally dissolve it.

According to the investigation, Trump’s attempts to dress himself as a charitable person are not limited to fraudulent misuse of funds. In 1996, he even managed to inject himself into a ribbon-cutting ceremony held by the Association to Benefit Children as a main donor despite never having donated a single dollar to the organization.

“Afterward, (Abigail) Disney (a donor) and (Gretchen) Buchenholz (the charity’s executive director) recalled, Trump left without offering an explanation. Or a donation,”the Post reported.

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Promises of donating Trump University’s proceeds, as well as salaries earned from “The Apprentice” have all gone unfulfilled as well.

For their part, and without any evidence or foundation, Trump’s campaign spokesperson merely reiterated to the Post that Trump “has donated tens of millions of dollars...to charitable causes.”

On Monday, Trump himself took to Twitter, claiming that he “gave millions...to DJT Foundation...all of which is given to charity, and media won’t report!”

Meanwhile, Trump’s own kids have come under fire for holding an “Opening Day 2017” fundraiser to grant donors access to both Trump and themselves during a planned hunting and fishing excursion. Required ”donations” for the privilege of hunting beside the business-tycoon range from $25,000 - $1 million.

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