The Guardian obtained documents indicating that President Trump’s new lawyer, Jay Sekulow, funneled more than $60 million from Christian nonprofits to him, his family and their businesses since 2000.
Sekulow’s nonprofit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case), solicited donations via phone and mail. The documents indicated that telemarketers warned potential donors about things like abortion, Sharia law and Barak Obama.
“It’s time to let the president know that his vision of America is obscured and represents a dangerous threat to the Judea-Christian [sic] values that have been the cornerstone of our republic,” a 2015 script read. A 2013 script claimed Obama’s Affordable Care Act was going to give Planned Parenthood federal funds “to open abortion referral clinics ‘in your child’s or grandchild’s middle school or high school’.”
Further, telemarketers were instructed to tell people who claimed poverty, unemployment or fixed incomes: “I can certainly understand how that would make it difficult for you to share a gift like that right now,” before asking for “even $20 within the next three weeks”.
Documents also showed that much of the money went to Sekulow and his wife, sons, brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew and their businesses. In addition, the money was used to make “unusual” loans and property deals for his family.
- Sekulow received personal compensation totaling $3.3 million.
- A law firm he co-owns, the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, was paid more than $25 million.
- Sekulow’s company that produces his radio show, Regency Productions, received $11.3 million.
- His wife was paid more than $1.2 million as secretary and treasurer of Case.
- His brother, as chief operations officer at Case, was paid $9.2 million in salary and benefits.
- His sister-in-law’s company got $6.2 million in media production fees and for a lease of a private jet that is shared with Sekulow’s Regency Production.
- Sekulow’s two sons and his niece and nephew collectively received at least $1.7 million for their work.
Federal law prohibits nonprofit insiders from getting “excessive benefits” or payments that exceed fair market value on goods and services.
The Guardian had attorneys and experts who specialize in nonprofit law review the documents. The consensus was the payments may have violated the excessive benefits law. “I can’t imagine this situation being acceptable,” said Arthur Rieman, managing attorney at Law Firms for Nonprofits. “That kind of money is practically unheard of in the nonprofit world, and these kinds of transactions I could never justify.”
The sentiment was echoed by Daniel Borochoff, the president of CharityWatch, “This is all highly unusual, and it gives an appearance of conflicts of interest that any nonprofit should want to avoid.”
Sekulow declined to provide detailed information proving the payments were reasonable, but his spokesperson, Gene Kapp, provided an email statement. “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.”
Some of the experts said that Sekulow’s nonprofits were structured to obscure how money was funneled to the family. “The organizations should be merged to avoid confusion,” said Borochoff of CharityWatch.
In reference to their property contracts Borochoff said, “They are asking for trouble, because it would be so easy for them to overpay for services and enrich the people involved.” Adding, “It would be prudent for their own protection to have independent oversight.”