Trump Hires Yet Another Grifter
Jay Sekulow, a recent addition to Trump’s legal team, was on the TV over the weekend constantly contradicting himself on whether Trump was or was not under investigation for either Russian collusion or obstruction of justice. Sekulow was an interesting choice as it was as his legal expertise primarily focused on constitutional religious issues as opposed to Washington criminal and political experience.
On the other hand, Sekulow obviously does have real experience in grifting and theft that might make him appealing to Trump. In a similar way to which Trump used the Trump Foundation, Sekulow has also used his own nonprofits, Christian Advocates Servicing Evangelism (CASE) and the American Center for Legal Justice (ACLJ), to funnel millions of dollars to himself and his family. It seems Sekulow and his family may have been the only ones being serviced.
A Guardian report shows that Sekulow has managed to take $60 million from CASE and ACLJ for himself and his family since 2000. Much of this money was raised in small donations from Christians via phone or direct mail. The money was raised by ACLJ which was merely the fundraising arm of CASE. This hid the fact that the Sekulows were taking millions from the nonprofit as they were mostly paid by CASE. Some of the fundraising pitches were hardly subtle and were factually challenged. Requests included claims that Obama would institute Sharia law and would open up abortion clinics in middle and high schools.
The amounts that the Sekulows ripped off from the nonprofits they controlled are staggering. Sekulow’s law firm received $25 million for legal services and his media company received over $11 million for production services. Sekulow himself has received over $3 million in compensation and his wife got over $1 million. Sekulow has received an over $200,000 loan in 1999 and then had the loan and interest payments forgiven and treated as compensation. Sekulow’s brother has received over $9 million while claiming he works for 40 hours per week for running multiple nonprofits that the Sekulows control. Sekulow’s sister-in-law has received over $6 million and the children of the two Sekulow brothers have shared in nearly $2 million.
The Sekulows have also engaged in some unusual real estate transactions. In one case, the non profit leased office space from a company controlled by Sekulow’s brother and both the nonprofit and the company listed that same space as their corporate address. Records show that the company made nearly $250,000 for that sublet. In another instance, Sekulow’s wife bought a property in North Carolina with a loan from the nonprofit. The nonprofit then proceeded to forgive the loan and treat the forgiveness as compensation.
Sekulow has apparently used CASE’s money to prop up other businesses he is involved in. One of those businesses was Amerivision, a company selling telephone services where Sekulow was a director. After CASE wrote off over $750 million in loans to Amerivision in 2004, it decided to make an additional $187,500 loan to Amerivision in 2005.
Since 2000, the Sekulow family has managed to extract between $3 and $4 million a year from these nonprofits. Sekulow’s spokesman claims “The financial arrangements between the ACLJ, Case and all related entities are regularly reviewed by outside independent compensation experts and have been determined to be reasonable. In addition, each entity has annual independent outside audits performed by certified public accounting firms. Further, the IRS has previously conducted audits of the ACLJ and Case and found them to be in full compliance of all applicable tax laws.” That may be technically true but you have to wonder about the quality of the audits. The whole Sekulow scam just screams of using nonprofits for personal benefit, a quality that Trump probably admires. And, while Sekulow may claim his actions are legal, I’m not sure many of his donors would think it was very Christian.