On Thursday night, while the rest of the Republican presidential field took the stage in Iowa for yet another debate, Donald Trump was hosting an event that his campaign said “would “benefit Veteran Organizations.” But no one, including the Trump campaign, has been able to identify the beneficiaries.
Hours before the hastily organized “fundraiser,” which was held at Drake University just miles away from the debate, Trump announced to his Twitter followers that he had set up a special website for supporters to donate funds to veterans. The website claims that “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs.” But as the conservative website The Federalist first reported, donations made through the website actually go to Trump’s foundation, which doesn’t have a good record of donating to veterans groups or their causes.
The Federalist points out the disclaimer at the bottom of Trump’s donation form, which reads: “The Donald J Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. An email confirmation with a summary of your donation will be sent to the email address provided above.” The Federalist also claims that those who contributed got an email saying: “The Donald J Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and acknowledges that no goods or services were provided to you in return for your contribution.”
The website, which was registered by the same group that designed Trump’s campaign website, does not list the names of any veterans organizations to which the funds would go, and more than a dozen of the most prominent veterans’ groups in the country have confirmed that they are not among the recipients.
“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 that neither Trump nor his campaign had contacted them. Other groups confirmed the same off-the-record,” Reuters new agency reported Thursday night.
CNN reached out to six major veterans organizations, all of which “said they had not been contacted by Trump representatives offering a piece of the proceeds raised.” Those six groups were: the American Legion, the Wounded Warrior Project, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AmVets and Fisher House.
Moreover, Trump’s record on veteran support across the board is pretty shady, and his rally has brought past examples of his missteps and shortcomings to the forefront.
While Trump loudly touts his support for veterans, his history of donating to veterans’ groups tells a different story. From 2009 to 2013, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $5.5 million to charities, of which only $57,000 — about one percent — went to organizations that directly benefit military veterans or their families, according to Forbes.
The New York Daily News also pointed out that Trump has in the past complained about street vendors, including veterans, in New York. “While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its tax paying citizens and businesses?” he wrote in a 1991 letter to John Dearie, then-chairman of the state assembly’s committee on cities.
Furthermore, Trump—who has referred repeatedly and often inaccurately during his campaign to the events of Sept. 11, 2001—is associated with only one documented gift to a 9/11 charity, a $1,000 donation through his nonprofit to a 9/11 Scientology program co-founded by Tom Cruise.
Trump came under fire over the summer for his statements about McCain, who was for years held captive as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Trump said the Arizona senator is not a war hero and is only considered so because he was captured — a statement that drew widespread criticism from both sides of the aisle.
His involvement in a military fundraising event during the fall caused a stir as well.
Last September, he headlined a fundraising event at the U.S.S. Iowa Battleship Museum hosted by a group called Veterans for a Strong America. The decision raised eyebrows when the Associated Press pointed out that the IRS had revoked the group’s nonprofit status, citing the group’s failure to file tax returns for three consecutive years (the event invitation lists the organization as a nonprofit). Furthermore, while Trump claimed that the organization represented “hundreds of thousands of veterans,” an investigation revealed that the ‘group’ was actually just one person.