Monday, September 12, 2016

How Donald Trump retooled his charity to spend other people’s money


By David A. Fahrenthold


September 10

Donald Trump was in a tuxedo, standing next to his award: a statue of a palm tree, as tall as a toddler. It was 2010, and Trump was being honored by a charity — the Palm Beach Police Foundation — for his “selfless support” of its cause.

His support did not include any of his own money.

Instead, Trump had found a way to give away somebody else’s money and claim the credit for himself.

Trump had earlier gone to a charity in New Jersey — the Charles Evans Foundation, named for a deceased businessman — and asked for a donation. Trump said he was raising money for the Palm Beach Police Foundation.

The Evans Foundation said yes. In 2009 and 2010, it gave a total of $150,000 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a small charity that the Republican presidential nominee founded in 1987.

Then, Trump’s foundation turned around and made donations to the police group in South Florida. In those years, the Trump Foundation’s gifts totaled $150,000.

Trump had effectively turned the Evans Foundation’s gifts into his own gifts, without adding any money of his own.

On the night that he won the Palm Tree Award for his philanthropy, Trump may have actually made money. The gala was held at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, and the police foundation paid to rent the room. It’s unclear how much was paid in 2010, but the police foundation reported in its tax filings that it rented Mar-a-Lago in 2014 for $276,463.

What we know about Trump's charitable giving
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Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold is investigating how much Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has given to charity over the past seven years. Here's what he found. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold is investigating how much Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has given to charity over the past seven years. Here's what he found. Reporter David Fahrenthold is investigating how much presidential candidate Donald Trump has given to charity over the past seven years. Here's what he found. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.

For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.

Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.

In two cases, he has used money from his charity to buy himself a gift. In one of those cases — not previously reported — Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself.

Money from the Trump Foundation has also been used for political purposes, which is against the law. The Washington Post reported this month that Trump paid a penalty this year to the Internal Revenue Service for a 2013 donation in which the foundation gave $25,000 to a campaign group affiliated with Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi (R).

Here's what you need to know about Trump's improper gift
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The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold breaks down the controversy over Donald Trump's improper $25,000 donation to a political group connected to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was at the time considering whether to open a fraud investigation against Trump University. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold breaks down the controversy over Donald Trump's improper $25,000 donation to a political group connected to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was at the time considering whether to open a fraud investigation against Trump University. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold breaks down the controversy over Donald Trump's $25,000 donation to a group linked to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Trump’s foundation appears to have repeatedly broken IRS rules, which require nonprofit groups to file accurate paperwork. In five cases, the Trump Foundation told the IRS that it had given a gift to a charity whose leaders told The Post that they had never received it. In two other cases, companies listed as donors to the Trump Foundation told The Post that those listings were incorrect.

[Trump pays IRS a penalty for his foundation violating rules with gift to aid Florida attorney general]

Last week, The Post submitted a detailed list of questions about the Trump Foundation to Trump’s campaign. Officials with the campaign declined to comment.

Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, have both been criticized during their campaigns for activities related to their foundations.

Critics have charged that the giant Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which employs more than 2,000 people and spends about a quarter of a billion dollars a year, has served as a way for businesses and powerful figures across the world to curry favor with one of America’s most powerful families. The Clinton Foundation has also been credited by supporters and critics alike for its charitable efforts.

[Foundation controversy forces Clinton campaign to play defense]

Trump has claimed that he gives generously to charity from his own pocket: “I don’t have to give you records,” he told The Post earlier this year, “but I’ve given millions away.” Efforts to verify those gifts have not succeeded, and Trump has refused to release his tax returns, which would show his charitable giving.

That leaves the Trump Foundation as the best window into the GOP nominee’s philanthropy.

In the past several days, questions about Trump’s foundation have focused on the gift to Bondi’s group in 2013. At the time the money arrived, Bondi’s office was considering whether to launch an investigation into allegations of fraud by Trump University — accusations that Trump denies.

The investigation never started. Aides to Bondi and Trump say the gift and the case were unrelated. But Democrats have seized on what they see as a clear example of political influence improperly funded by Trump’s charity.

“The foundation was being used basically to promote a moneymaking fraudulent venture of Donald Trump’s. That’s not what charities are supposed to do,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, said Friday. “I hope there’s a significant effort to get to the bottom of it and find out whether this is the end.”

A threadbare operation

Trump started his foundation in 1987 with a narrow purpose: to give away some of the proceeds from his book “The Art of the Deal.”

Nearly three decades later, the Trump Foundation is still a threadbare, skeletal operation.

The most money it has ever reported having was $3.2 million at the end of 2009. At last count, that total had shrunk to $1.3 million. By comparison, Oprah Winfrey — who is worth $1.5 billion less than Trump, according to a Forbes magazine estimate — has a foundation with $242 million in the bank. At the end of 2014, the Clinton Foundation had $440 million in assets.

In a few cases, Trump seemed to solicit donations only to immediately give them away. But his foundation has also received a handful of bigger donations — including $5 million from professional-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon — that Trump handed out a little at a time.

The foundation has no paid staffers. It has an unpaid board consisting of four Trumps — Donald, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. — and one Trump Organization employee.

In 2014, at last report, each said they worked a half-hour a week.

The Trump Foundation still gives out small, scattered gifts — which seem driven by the demands of Trump’s businesses and social life, rather than by a desire to support charitable causes.

The foundation makes a few dozen donations a year, usually in amounts from $1,000 to $50,000. It gives to charities that rent Trump’s ballrooms. It gives to charities whose leaders buttonholed Trump on the golf course (and then try, in vain, to get him to offer a repeat donation the next year).

It even gives in situations in which Trump publicly put himself on the hook for a donation — as when he promised a gift “out of my wallet” on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.” The Trump Foundation paid off most of those on-air promises. A TV production company paid others. The Post could find no instance in which a celebrity’s charity got a gift from Trump’s own wallet.

Another time, Trump went on TV’s “Extra” for a contest called “Trump pays your bills!”

About 10 years ago, the Trump Foundation underwent a major change — although it was invisible to those who received its gifts.

The checks still had Trump’s name on them.

Behind the scenes, he was transforming the foundation from a standard-issue rich person’s philanthropy into a charity that allowed a rich man to be philanthropic for free.

Experts on charity said they had rarely seen anything like it.

“Our common understanding of charity is you give something of yourself to help somebody else. It’s not something that you raise money from one side to spend it on the other,” said Leslie Lenkowsky, the former head of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and a professor studying philanthropy at Indiana University.

By that definition, was Trump engaging in charity?

No, Lenkowsky said.

“It’s a deal,” he said, an arrangement worked out for maximum benefit at minimum sacrifice.

In the Trump Foundation’s early days, between 1987 and 2006, Trump actually was its primary donor. Over that span, Trump gave his own foundation a total of $5.4 million. But he was giving it away as fast as he put it in, and by the start of 2007, the foundation’s assets had dropped to $4,238.

Then, Trump made a change.

First, he stopped giving his own money.

His contribution shrank to $35,000 in 2007.

Then to $30,000 in 2008.

Then to $0.

At the same time, Trump’s foundation began to fill with money from other people.

But in many other cases, his biggest donors have not wanted to say why they gave their own money, when Trump was giving none of his.

“I don’t have time for this. Thank you,” said Richard Ebers, a ticket broker in New York City who has given the Trump Foundation $1.9 million since 2011.

“No. No. No. I’m not going to comment on anything. I’m not answering any of your questions,” said John Stark, the chief executive of a carpet company that has donated $64,000 over the years.

Vince and Linda McMahon declined to comment.

So did NBCUniversal, which donated $500,000 in 2012. Its gift more than covered the “personal” donations that Trump offered at dramatic moments on “The Celebrity Apprentice” — then paid for out of the Trump Foundation.

Trump’s donations to the Palm Beach Police Foundation offered a stark example of Trump turning somebody else’s gift into his own charity.

Tax experts said they had rarely heard of anything like what Trump had done, converting another donor’s gift into his own.

“I question whether it’s ethical. It’s certainly misleading. But I think it’s legal, because you would think that the other foundation that’s . . . being taken advantage of would look out for their own interests,” said Rosemary E. Fei, an attorney in San Francisco who has advised hundreds of small foundations. “That’s their decision to let him do that.”

After three years, the Charles Evans Foundation stopped using Trump as a middleman.

“We realized we don’t need to do it through a pass-through,” said Bonnie Pfeifer Evans, the widow of Charles Evans and a trustee of the now-defunct foundation.

In 2012, the Charles Evans Foundation stopped giving money to the Trump Foundation.

In 2013, according to tax records, the Trump Foundation stopped giving to the Palm Beach Police Foundation.

The police group, which gave Trump the award, did not know that Trump’s money had come from somebody else’s pocket. It could not explain why he gave in some years but not others — or why he gave in the amounts he did.

“He’s the unpredictable guy, right?” said John F. Scarpa, the Palm Beach Police Foundation’s president, before The Post informed him about how Trump got the money. He said Trump’s giving wasn’t the only reason he got the award. He also could be counted on to draw a crowd to the group’s annual event. The amount paid to Trump’s club was first reported by BuzzFeed.

The police group still holds its galas at Mar-a-Lago.

Acts of ‘self-dealing’

At the same time that it began to rely on other people’s money, the Trump Foundation sometimes appeared to flout IRS rules by purchasing things that seemed to benefit only Trump.

In 2007, for instance, Trump and his wife, Melania, attended a benefit for a children’s charity held at Mar-a-Lago. The night’s entertainment was Michael Israel, who bills himself as “the original speed painter.” His frenetic act involved painting giant portraits in five to seven minutes — then auctioning off the art he’d just created.

He painted Trump.

Melania Trump bid $10,000.

Nobody tried to outbid her.

“The auctioneer was just pretty bold, so he said, ‘You know what just happened: When you started bidding, nobody’s going to bid against you, and I think it’s only fair that you double the bid,’ ” Israel said in an interview last week.

Melania Trump increased her bid to $20,000.

“I understand it went to one of his golf courses,” Israel said of the painting.

The Trump Foundation paid the $20,000, according to the charity that held the benefit.

Something similar happened in 2012, when Trump himself won an auction for a football helmet autographed by football player Tim Tebow, then a quarterback with the Denver Broncos.

The winning bid was $12,000. As The Post reported in July, the Trump Foundation paid.

IRS rules generally prohibit acts of “self-dealing,” in which a charity’s leaders use the nonprofit group’s money to buy things for themselves.

In both years, IRS forms asked whether the foundation had broken those rules: Had it “furnish[ed] goods, services or facilities” to Trump or another of its officers?

In both years, the Trump Foundation checked “no.”

Tax experts said Trump could have avoided violating the self-dealing rules if he gave the helmet and the painting to other charities instead of keeping them. Trump’s staffers have not said where the two items are now.

The IRS penalties for acts of “self-dealing” can include penalty taxes, both on charities and on their leaders as individuals.

In other cases, the Trump Foundation’s tax filings appeared to include listings that were incorrect.

The Washington Post has contacted more than 250 charities with some ties to the GOP nominee in an effort to find proof of the millions he has said he donated. We've been mostly unsuccessful. View Graphic

The Washington Post has contacted more than 250 charities with some ties to the GOP nominee in an effort to find proof of the millions he has said he donated. We've been mostly unsuccessful.

The most prominent example is the improper political donation to the group affiliated with Bondi, the Florida attorney general, in 2013. In that case, Trump’s staffers said a series of errors resulted in the payment being made — and then hidden from the IRS.

First, Trump officials said, when the request came down to cut a check to the Bondi group, a Trump Organization clerk followed internal protocol and consulted a book with the names of known charities.

The name of the pro-Bondi group is “And Justice for All.” Trump’s staffer saw that name in the book, and — mistakenly — cut the check from the Trump Foundation. The group in the book was an entirely different charity in Utah, unrelated to Bondi’s group in Florida.

Somehow, the money got to Florida anyway.

Then, Trump’s staffers said, the foundation’s accounting firm made another mistake: It told the IRS that the $25,000 had gone to a third charity, based in Kansas, called Justice for All. In reality, the Kansas group got no money.

“That was just a complete mess-up on names. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization’s controller, told The Post last week. After The Post pointed out these errors in the spring, Trump paid a $2,500 penalty tax.

Donations not received

In four other cases, The Post found charities that said they never received donations that the Trump Foundation said it gave them.

The amounts were small: $10,000 in 2008, $5,000 in 2010, $10,000 in 2012. Most of the charities had no idea that Trump had said he had given them money.

One did.

This January, the phone rang at a tiny charity in White River Junction, Vt., called Friends of Veterans. This was just after Trump had held a televised fundraiser for veterans in Iowa, raising more than $5 million.

The man on the phone was a Trump staffer who was selecting charities that would receive the newly raised money. He said the Vermont group was already on Trump’s list, because the Trump Foundation had given it $1,000 in 2013.

“I don’t remember a donation from the Trump Foundation,” said Larry Daigle, the group’s president, who was a helicopter gunner with the Army during the Vietnam War. “The guy seemed pretty surprised about this.”

The man went away from the phone. He came back.

Was Daigle sure? He was.

The man thanked him. He hung up. Daigle waited — hopes raised — for the Trump people to call back.

“Oh, my God, do you know how many homeless veterans I could help?” Daigle told The Post this spring, while he was waiting.

Trump gave away the rest of the veterans money in late May.

Daigle’s group got none of it.

[Media scrutiny over charitable donations to veterans riles up Trump]

In two other cases, the Trump Foundation reported to the IRS that it had received donations from two companies that have denied making such gifts. In 2013, for instance, the Trump Foundation said it had received a $100,000 donation from the Clancy Law Firm, whose offices are in a Trump-owned building on Wall Street.

“That’s incorrect,” said Donna Clancy, the firm’s founder, when The Post called. “I’m not answering any questions.”

She hung up and did not respond to requests for comment afterward.

“All of these things show that the [Trump] foundation is run in a less-than-ideal manner. But that’s not at all unusual for small, private foundations, especially those run by a family,” said Brett Kappel, a Washington attorney who advises tax-exempt organizations. “Usually, you have an accounting firm that has access to the bank statements, and they’re the ones who find these errors and correct them.”

The Trump Foundation’s accountants are at WeiserMazars, a New York-based firm. The Post sent them a detailed list of questions, asking them to explain these possible errors.

The firm declined to comment.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed
to this report.

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What Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis means, medically-speaking

The Washington PostWashington Post - Washington Post

The Washington Post

Ben Guarino 2 hrs ago


On Labor Day, in the middle of a Cleveland campaign rally, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton paused to fight back a cough. She sipped from a glass of water, turned from her microphone and then shrugged the spell off. “Every time I think about Trump,” Clinton said, “I get allergic.”

If only stump speech quips could defeat microbes. Six days after the Ohio rally, traveling from a Sept. 11 memorial service held in New York, Clinton lost her balance and had to be helped into a waiting van. Passersby caught the stumble on video and forced the campaign to come clean: Clinton had fallen ill. A few days before, it turned out, a physician diagnosed the 68-year-old candidate with pneumonia.

“Secretary Clinton has been experiencing a cough related to allergies,” Clinton’s physician Lisa R. Bardack said in a statement, as The Washington Post reported Sunday. “On Friday, during follow up evaluation of her prolonged cough, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule. While at this morning’s event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely.” Clinton canceled a planned trip to California.

Although Bardack said her patient was on the way to recovery, the diagnosis of pneumonia may have left some voters wondering: Isn’t pneumonia, after all, a serious health concern?

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives for ceremonies to mark the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks at the National 9/11 Memorial in New York, September 11, 2016.

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends ceremonies to mark the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

  • Hillary Clinton and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio attend the ceremonies.

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Chuck Schumer attend ceremonies.

  • Hillary Clinton and her traveling press secretary Nick Merrill attend ceremonies.

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, center, accompanied by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., second from left, speaks with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, center right, during a ceremony at the Sept. 11 memorial, in New York, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016.

  • Hillary Clinton left the memorial event after about 90 minutes while it was still underway, Nick Merrill, a Clinton spokesman, said.

  • Hillary Clinton leaves ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. After some U.S. media reported she had fallen ill, reporters traveling with the candidate did not get an immediate response from the campaign to questions about her whereabouts and her health. About 90 minutes elapsed before the campaign issued its statement.

  • Clinton, 68, was taken to her daughter Chelsea's home in Manhattan, and emerged later wearing sunglasses and telling reporters that she was "feeling great," around two hours after she left the event on a hot and muggy morning.

  • US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leaves her daughter's apartment building after resting on September 11, 2016 in New York. Clinton departed from a remembrance ceremony on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks after feeling 'overheated,' but was later doing 'much better,' her campaign said.

  • A girl runs out of the crowd to greet Hillary Clinton as she leaves her daughter Chelsea's home.

  • U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets a girl on the sidewalk after leaving her daughter Chelsea's home in New York, U.S. September 11, 2016 in this still image taken from video.

  • Hillary Clinton had no more events on her schedule for Sunday and went, as previously planned, to her home in Chappaqua, New York, 30 miles (50 km) north of New York City.

  • The incident comes less than 60 days before the Nov. 8 presidential election and at a time of intense campaigning against Republican rival Donald Trump.



The short answer, at the moment, based on the limited available information about Clinton’s case and viewed independently of any unknown other health issues she may or may not face, is no.

“At this point, there is no reason to believe that Secretary Clinton will be disabled” by pneumonia, American Lung Association scientific adviser Norman H. Edelman told The Washington Post by phone Sunday night.

The long answer to pneumonia’s seriousness begins more than a hundred years ago, when pneumococcal bacteria were discovered in the 1880s. Around the dawn of the previous millennium, that disease had replaced consumption, or what we would now call tuberculosis, as the primary cause of death in cities like Chicago, according to Canadian physician William Osler. He made a scrupulous study of the disease and described it in almost poetic terms. In 1901, he wrote that “The most widespread and fatal of all acute infectious diseases, pneumonia, is now the ‘Captain of the Men of Death’.”

Osler also observed that pneumonia frequently struck those whose health was already compromised. He gave the illness another name — “the old man’s friend” — meaning it was a terminal, though by standards of the time painless, affliction among the elderly. As it were, Osler would get to befriend the disease personally. He succumbed to pneumonia in 1919.

Had he lived for two more decades, the doctor would have seen penicillin change the world. After World War II, the development of penicillin and other antibiotics slashed the disease’s mortality rate to nearly a third compared to the early 1900s. Pneumonia fell from its perch at the top of lethal causes, though not very far. Together with influenza, the disease was still the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States in 2013. That year, it had a mortality rate of 17 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Death remains a part of the pneumonia spectrum. Not all pneumonias, however, are created equally.

“The problem is we have one word for a disease that comes in lots of different iterations,” as Edelman told The Post.

At its most basic, pneumonia simply means that a germ has inflamed the lung’s air sacs. Cold viruses infect the nose and throat; bronchitis concerns the airways; and pneumonias afflict the dark, wet and warm parts of the lung itself. Making matters more complicated, the pathogens chewing into the lung tissue could be any one of a motley crew of bacteria, viruses or fungi.

The severity of pneumonia is as broad as its possible culprits. At the far end lies a mild disease. The illness is known colloquially as walking pneumonia, so named because the illness rarely knocks anyone out of commission and into bed. Here is likely where we find Clinton, at least based on what her campaign has revealed so far.

The CDC estimates that 2 million people a year fall sick with such milder forms of pneumonia. “Developing walking pneumonia does not mean you have poor health,” Stanford University pulmonologist Mark Nicolls said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Young and healthy people develop walking pneumonia.” It is possible there are even more cases than that CDC estimate, too, as walking pneumonia is hard to diagnose. Symptoms rarely stray from coughing, fever, fatigue and other average maladies.

If Clinton indeed has walking pneumonia, there is a decent chance — odds range between 1 to 50 and 1 to 5 — that the culprit is a bug named Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Among bacteria, M. pneumoniae is an oddity. It is both exceptionally small — one of the smallest organisms on earth — and unusually vulnerable, as it lacks the cell walls that sheath most other bacteria. As far as is known, it is an exclusive human parasite, unable to reproduce outside of warm and wet human organs. M. pneumoniae is spread person-to-person, through droplets expelled through the respiratory tract.

But that is just one possibility. “The bugs that cause pneumonia are common,” Edelman said. “Lots of people carry those bugs in their nose and throat.” (This was about as close as an expert would speculate about the risk factor of shaking sweaty hands by the millions on the campaign trail.)

It is too soon to say with certainty if M. pneumoniae or any other given microorganism is responsible for Clinton’s pneumonia. The laboratory tests to determine a type of mild pneumonia, in fact, frequently take longer that the disease itself lasts.

Even the fact that Clinton is taking antibiotics offers little insight into the nature of her illness. (Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, not viruses.) Physicians may administer such drugs in suspected bacterial cases. A chest x-ray, in the meantime, will give at least some insight. Such an x-ray can “show a diffuse whiteness that can look worse than the patient does,” Nicolls said. Viruses, generally speaking, are inclined to spread out, appearing on a lung x-ray in a smothering white fog. Other sorts of microbes stay close. “The bacteria tend to get localized to a lobe of the lung,” he said.

No matter the specific bug, this sort of pneumonia is what’s known as community-acquired pneumonia. That is, it was caught anywhere but in a health care system. Hospital-acquired or healthcare-associated pneumonias are much more severe diseases, often involving drug-resistant pathogens. Those diseases are a large part why the umbrella of pneumonia continues to have a high mortality rate.

What is far less likely, too, is that Clinton caught the pneumococcal form of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone over the age of 65 to be vaccinated for the more severe pneumococcal. At 68, Clinton falls within this demographic. (The American Lung Association’s advice, for what it’s worth, is a vaccine beginning at 55.)

Walking pneumonia is ultimately self-limiting, which means the disease should pass on its own, even without antibiotics. “It’s common. It occurs at all ages,” Edelman said. “It occurs in perfectly healthy people as well as those who are sick.” 

In fact, on Friday, the day of her diagnosis, Clinton attended several events, including a CNN interview and national security meeting. “If she’s had it for more than a week or so,” Nicolls told The Post, “you could say that it indicates a certain amount of stoicism.”

Above is from

Budget mess sinking higher ed in Illinois

August 06, 2016 Editorial: 

By Crain's Editorial Board

When Bruce Rauner was running for governor in 2014, he vowed he'd boost state spending on higher education while warning he'd also work with university administrators to reduce spending on overhead. Since moving to Springfield, Rauner has, euphemistically speaking, worked with public universities from one end of the state to the other to cut expenditures. If only he were true to his full promise.

Higher education in Illinois is withering. And if the state's schools aren't rescued soon, the damage could be profound and permanent.

Illinois has come a long way since the bleak days of the Rust Belt recession 35 years ago. A third of adults over 25 have a bachelor's degree or better in Illinois today; in metro Chicago, the share has risen even more, to 36 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's good. Though college isn't for everyone, the best-paying and most secure jobs are reserved for people with college degrees. If Illinois is going to thrive in the digital economy, it will need a highly educated workforce.

Rauner and the Democratic do-nothings in the General Assembly, however, seem bound and determined to deny us that. Their stopgap state budget restored funding for student grants in the previous academic year but set aside no money for grants in the fall semester, which is just a few weeks away. Altogether, the six-month budget gives higher ed $1.6 billion over 18 months. That's less than the $1.9 billion it received in the 12 months ended June 30.

It's no wonder that more Illinois high school graduates are enrolling in out-of-state schools, which can offer guaranteed aid packages. It's also no wonder that, as Crain's reported Aug. 1, professors are leaving in droves, even trading tenured positions here for nontenured jobs where they won't have to worry about what new cuts will be forced on public universities on Jan. 1, when the money runs out again. Once we lose our best and brightest to other states, we may never get them back.

We're picking on Rauner here because he broke his word. But House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are his duty-shirking enablers. What all three need to do is agree on a real state budget that provides the state's universities with the money they deserve and Illinois the workers it can't live without.

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