The mystery beneficiary of Trump’s veteran fundraising

January 28, 2016
People watch as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on a big screen at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, January 18, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX22XWA

People watch as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on a big screen at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts – RTX22XWA

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump left tongues wagging this week when he announced he would skip Thursday’s GOP debate in favor of hosting a fundraiser for veterans. And on Thursday afternoon, Trump unveiled on Twitter a dedicated website for his supporters to donate funds for veterans.

But as the clock ticked closer to the start of Trump’s veteran event, neither Trump nor his dedicated donation website had specified where exactly any funds raised would go or how they would be used. And of the 12 charities that Reuters was able to contact, none said that they were aware of any offer from Trump or his campaign staff to become the recipient of the funds, as of Thursday afternoon.

To be sure, Trump is under no requirement whatsoever – legal or otherwise – to choose the recipient of the donations prior to collecting them. He could decide a month or even a year from now. It’s his choice.

But to those who wonder where, exactly, the money is going: many charities are wondering as well.

Army Emergency Relief, Thanks USA, Fisher House, The Armed Services YMCA, Disabled American Veterans, Operation Homefront, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Wounded Warriors Family Support all confirmed to Reuters that neither Trump nor his campaign had contacted them. Other groups confirmed the same off-the-record.

“It is my great honor to support our Veterans with you!” Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tweeted Thursday. “You can join me now. Thank you! #Trump4Vets.” The tweet included a link to the website

The website, however, did not specify any specific veterans’ charity to which the funds would go and rather included an insignia bearing the name of the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

“Honor their valor,” the page reads, “Donate now to help our Veterans.”

Above the donation field, the website reads, “I WANT TO SUPPORT VETERANS WITH THE FOLLOWING AMOUNT.” Below that, it says that “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs,” without specifying what those needs are or what organization will receive the funds.

The Federalist reported today that the website directs all donations to Trump’s personal foundation.

The Donald J. Trump Foundation does not have a history of robust giving to veteran groups,Forbes reported last month. Out of the $5.5 million the foundation donated between 2009 and 2013, according to Forbes, just $57,000 went to organizations that directly benefit military veterans.

The Trump campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the matter from Reuters.

One veteran group has openly declined any charitable support from Trump already.

On Wednesday, Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted that his organization would decline any donations from Trump’s fundraising event, if they are offered.

“We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts,” Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) tweeted.

That said, some veterans groups Reuters spoke to were eager to be on the receiving end of his generosity.

John Folsom, founder and president of Wounded Warriors Family Support and a combat veteran himself, said that while his organization had not been contacted by the Trump campaign, his group would gladly accept the support.

“He’s shooting off his mouth about giving to a veterans charity and he hasn’t named anybody,” Folsom said. “The guy could easily write a check and so I’d be grateful if Mr. Trump thinks we’d be a good steward of his donated dollars.”

(Emily Flitter contributed reporting)

Update: Donald Trump’s campaign website provided a list of charities that it said would receive donations in a press release Thursday night, after the fundraiser. You can access the list here.

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