He who pays the piper calls the tune. This seems to be the guiding principle in Donald Trump’s recent discovery that there were veterans and veterans charities in the United States.
Two weeks ago, when Trump begged off attending the GOP debate, he staged a counter-event at Drake University and boasted that he would use it to raise funds for veterans groups. This, in and of itself, was surprising. Mr. Trump spent a lot of time and effort avoiding the draft. (Let me say, I don’t really fault him for that. A lot of young men decided there was no good reason to go to Vietnam and used completely legal means of avoiding service. This differentiates Trump from Bernie Sanders who was a dyed-in-the-wool draft dodger who filed a perjurious affidavit stating he was a conscientious objector.) Since his has had a personal foundation he has given more money to Clintons than he has to veterans groups:
And how much did the Trump Foundation donate between 2009 and 2013 to the veterans’ causes he is apparently so passionate about? $57,000. By comparison, in 2009 alone his foundation gave $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. When compared to Donald’s massive wealth and public willingness to throw money at politicians of all stripes, the value of the Trump Foundation’s donations to vets is equivalent to the cost of an expensive toupee.
A left wing front organization posing as a veterans group, this would be the Iran and Afghanistan Veterans of America led by the odious shill Paul Rieckhoff, immediately rejected his offer of funds. This was to be expected. And subsequently we were told that Trump has raised some $6 million for veterans. Then things got murkier. All the money raised by Trump at his event was funneled into Trump’s personal charity:
…Trump even set up a special website to solicit donations to help veterans.
“Honor their valor,” the website, donaldtrumpforvets.com, states. “Donate now to help our Veterans.”
The website, which is nothing more than a single page with stock photosand a credit card donation form, claims that “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs.”
There’s only one problem: 100% of the money raised on the site goes directly to Donald Trump’s personal non-profit foundation, according to a disclosure listed at the bottom of the page.
“The Donald J Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization,” the disclosure reads. “An email confirmation with a summary of your donation will be sent to the email address provided above.”
Why, might you ask, would that be? Now we have the answer:
Liberty House is a scrappy veterans group in New Hampshire, with a small, $300,000 annual budget—one of the 22 organizations chosen to benefit from Trump’s multimillion-dollar fundraiser for vets.
On Friday, Liberty House executive director Keith Howard received a call from a Trump campaign staffer, who conveyed that Trump would like to publicly present them with a six-figure check at a Londonderry rally on Monday, right before the Granite State primary.It’s an enormous amount of money for a small charity. But Howard said he wouldn’t do it—risking the entire, substantial donation on a point of principle.
Howard, a 57-year-old Army vet, objected to the use of veterans for political purposes. He doesn’t believe that his charity—which clothes the homeless, feeds the needy, and provides housing to 10 formerly homeless vets—should be presented with money by a political candidate at a political rally.
“This is not directed at the Trump campaign,” Howard said. “This is about any campaign.”
Plus, Howard believed appearing at a political rally could jeopardize his group’s nonprofit status—something a call to an expert in the state attorney general’s office confirmed. And he found it strange that the call was coming from a Trump campaign staffer, rather than someone related to the foundation that raised money for veterans.
Mr. Howard is exactly right. It is improper for a 501(c)3 to accept a donation in a way that could be construed as electioneering on behalf of Trump. But there seems to be a pattern:
In this case, organizations in states with early voting contests appear to be on the fast track. The Donald J. Trump Foundation put out this list of 22 organizations that would receive money from the Drake University fundraiser.
MSNBC attempted to contact all 22 of the organizations on the list. Of the 13 we were able to reach, nine organizations say they have received no funds yet. Most of those groups say they have had little to no contact with the Trump organization, save for an initial call to see if they would be open to receiving a donation.
One organization, Projects for Patriots based in Sioux City, Iowa, says it is a relatively new non-profit and is still getting its paperwork in order so that it can receive funds. Projects for Patriots is one of the few organizations that says it has heard from the Trump organization in order to get a donation set up. In fact, a representative from the group was asked to appear publicly with Trump in order to receive a check.
Also based in Iowa are the two organizations that so far have received money thanks to the Des Moines fundraiser. Just two days after the Thursday night event, Puppy Jake, an organization that helps military veterans with trained service dogs, received a check for $100,000 when three families with the group attended a campaign event with Trump in Davenport, Iowa. Another Iowa organization, Support Siouxland Soldiers, received a check for $100,000 the day before the Iowa caucuses. Founder Sarah Petersen appeared with Trump on stage at a campaign rally in Sioux City.
The fact that a non-profit that has not even had its non-profit status awarded by the IRS received a grant is a tell. The fact that the grants are being rolled out in primary state order is also a tell.
While raising money for a people whom he’d had little regard in the past is laudable, what Trump is clearly doing is using his philanthropy to buy what look like endorsements. He awards money to charities in primary states (so far Iowa and New Hampshire) and asks a representative of the charity to accept the grant at a campaign rally. It doesn’t look like he revokes the grant if they decline:
Trump supporter and New Hampshire State Rep. Al Baldasaro called Howard, telling him the mogul would present the check to Baldasaro, himself a vet. The state representative would then deliver the check to Liberty House after the primary in a more subdued way.
But many small non-profits will go along with the request simply because they can’t afford to turn risk losing a donation that may be multiples of their annual budget. In a way, this is exactly what he did in Atlantic City when he tried to take a widow’s home to turn it into a limousine parking lot. He’s using his money and his personal clout to take possession of the name and cause of small charities for his personal benefit.