Eric Trump's cancer charity event was billed by Trump for use of golf course: Report

Eric Trump, son of Republican president-elect Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York, New York, U.S. November 16, 2016. 

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Last Updated Jun 7, 2017 6:50 PM EDT

The Eric Trump Foundation paid President Trump's businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2007 to 2015 for expenses from charity golf tournaments intended to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee, at the direction of Mr. Trump, according to a report published Tuesday in Forbes. 

Eric Trump, Mr. Trump's second-oldest son, told Forbes all the money from the annual golf tournaments at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York benefited children with cancer, and he did not pay to use his family's golf course.

"We get to use our assets 100 percent free of charge," he told Forbes' Dan Alexander.

But IRS tax forms Forbes obtained show use of the course wasn't free after all. The for-profit Trump Organization received payments from the not-for-profit Eric Trump Foundation for use of the golf course, part of the $1.2 million that has no documented receipts beyond the Trump Organization, according to Forbes. 

More than $500,000 in donations raised from the tournaments was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, according to Forbes. Four such groups held their own charity tournaments at Trump golf courses at later dates. The nonprofit Donald J. Trump Foundation also donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation to cover tournament costs, money that was then redirected to Trump businesses, Forbes claims. 

According to Forbes, it was now-President Trump himself who demanded that the Eric Trump Foundation be charged for the use of the golf course. 

"In the early years, they weren't being billed [for the club]--the bills would just disappear," Ian Gillule, former membership and marketing director at Trump National Westchester, told Forbes. "Mr. Trump had a cow. He flipped. He was like, 'We're donating all of this stuff, and there's no paper trail? No credit?' And he went nuts. He said, 'I don't care if it's my son or not--everybody gets billed.'"

Through the years, the tournament's costs skyrocketed, according to tax records Forbes obtained. Expenses for the first four tournaments from 2007 to 2011 ran about $50,000 each. By 2011, the cost of the tournament jumped from $46,000 to $142,000. By 2015, those expenses reached $322,000, according to the tax records obtained by Forbes. It's unclear exactly how much the Trump Organization collected from the tournaments, but it's also not clear why the costs spiked so dramatically, Alexander observed.

Shortly before that surge in costs, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation, a gift Gillule told Forbes was to offset the tournament cost increases. Golf tournament experts and former club employees told Forbes they couldn't imagine how hosting a one-day tournament could cost that much. 

When the Eric Trump Foundation began, its board members were mostly friends of Eric Trump -- people independent of Trump family financial interests. But by 2010, nine of the board's 17 members were employees of, or people with some financial stake in, the Trump Organization, according to Forbes. 

Eric Trump, appearing on Fox News' show with Sean Hannity Tuesday night, said he was "attacked."

"I've raised $16.3 million for the greatest hospital in the world," the Trump son said. "That's St. Jude.  And I get attacked for it."

And it's true that Mr. Trump's son has raised millions for St. Jude, which Forbes pointed out, noting that a new intensive care unit at the hospital was named for Eric Trump in 2015. The Trump Organization disagreed with Forbes' findings. 

"During the past decade, the Eric Trump Foundation has raised over $16.3 million for St. Jude Children's Research hospital while maintaining an expense ratio of just 12.3 percent," a spokesperson for Eric Trump said in a statement provided to CBS News. "The Eric Trump Foundation was also responsible for building a $20 million dollar ICU which treats the sickest children anywhere in the world suffering from the most catastrophic terminal illnesses."

"Contrary to recent reports, at no time did the Trump Organization profit in any way from the foundation or any of its activities," the statement continued. "While people can disagree on political issues, to infer malicious intent on a charity that has changed so many lives, is not only shameful but is truly disgusting. At the end of the day the only people who lose are the children of St. Jude and other incredibly worthy causes."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment from CBS News. 

Financial entanglements continue to plague the White House during Mr. Trump's presidency. The president handed off management of his financial interests to his two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., but the president's decision to not fully divest his business interests has drawn skepticism from his critics.