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New York attorney general orders Trump Foundation to halt fundraising

New York's attorney general has ordered the Donald J. Trump Foundation, headed by the Republican presidential candidate, to "cease and desist" from soliciting contributions in the state.

Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman's office said the foundation was in violation of state law by raising money in New York while failing to register as a charity and to file financial statements.

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"The failure immediately to discontinue solicitation and to file information and reports … shall be deemed to be a continuing fraud upon the people of the state of New York," read a letter from the attorney general's office dated Friday and made public Monday on its website.

Schneiderman's office gave the Trump Foundation 15 days to comply.

The most immediate concern appears to be a Jan. 28 fundraiser for veterans in Des Moines, which made headlines when Trump attended it instead of a Republican primary debate because of his feud with Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

At the same time, Trump started raising money from the public through the website donaldtrumpforvets.com. Despite all the publicity, Trump neglected to file the necessary registration and disclosure statements for public fundraising.

"Until very recently, the funding for the Donald J. Trump Foundation came from friends and business associates, but this definitely was public fundraising, and he was required to file," said Leslie Lenkowsky, the former head of the Corporation for National and Community Service and a professor of philanthropy at Indiana University. "These may be technicalities, but they are important technicalities. Charities tug on the heartstrings of the public, raising money for widows and orphans. We don't want donors to be defrauded."

Larger questions have been raised in recent weeks about the Trump Foundation. Unlike other family foundations, Trump and his relatives have given little of their own money, using the foundation instead as a way to raise money from others while publicizing the Trump name, the Washington Post reported last week.

In one case, the newspaper reported, Trump used $20,000 earmarked for charity to buy a 6-foot-tall painting of himself.

In another case, Trump paid a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service for a 2013 donation by the foundation to a campaign group supporting Florida Atty. Gen. Pamela Bondi.

The Trump Foundation has no paid employees and a board made up of Trump, three of his children and one employee of another Trump business.

"This is essentially a celebrity foundation, like the one set up by Madonna. A lot of these celebrity foundations are basically put together to deal with tax, legal and PR issues, but often they don't get the kind of attention a professional fund should," Lenkowsky said.

Hillary Clinton has received criticism for using her family's foundation as a way to allow business people to curry political favor.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, has been an outspoken critic of Trump's business practices.

He is also taking action against Trump University, which he has called "a fraud from beginning to end."

"While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind ... Schneiderman's investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation," Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement Monday.

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UPDATES:

2:45 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details and reactions.

This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.

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