Donald Trump decided to ditch Thursday night’s debate to raise money for veterans instead. The only problem is the money is going directly to The Donald J. Trump Foundation—an organization that has given more to the Clintons than to the troops.
Trump’s campaign launched donaldtrumpforvets.com today in advance of his showy counter event in Iowa during the Republican debate. The site, featuring the image of a Ukrainian actor posing as a soldier, promises that “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs.”
Yet, clearly marked in the top left corner is the gold emblem of the Donald J. Trump Foundation. And at the bottom, a small disclosure reads: “The Donald J Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.”
As of around 6:30 p.m., the site claims that it has raised $250,000 in its less than day-old existence.
Trump’s campaign won’t say which particular groups will reap the now quarter-of-a-million-dollar windfall though. And the tax forms that show how he spends the money won’t be public until 2018.
When asked about the particular organizations that would benefit, campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson told CNN that “there might be a list on the website,” after initially claiming that she could not hear the question. “There are a lot of organizations that are in queue to sign up for this.”
No such list is currently available on the site, and the campaign did not respond to a request for clarification from The Daily Beast. It doesn’t appear that veterans are jumping at the opportunity to collect money from the GOP frontrunner.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a prominent group that represents some 150,000 veterans, already said it doesn’t want a cent raised in relation to Trump’s event.
“If offered, IAVA will decline donations from Trump’s event,” founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff tweeted yesterday. “We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts.”
Trump’s foundation also has a history of giving paltry donations to organizations benefiting veterans while doling out enormous sums to various evangelical and political organizations as well as the Clinton Foundation.
Tax forms examined by The Daily Beast show that in 2009, the Donald J. Trump Foundation gave a whopping $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation (then called the William J. Clinton Foundation). The following year, Trump’s foundation, a registered 501(c) group, gave another $10,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
Also, World Wrestling Entertainment, a company for which Trump has made appearances, gave Trump’s foundation $1 million.
Over a five-year span, from 2009 to 2013, the foundation gave just $57,000 to veterans groups, according to an estimate Forbes made last December. A significant portion of that comes from a single $25,000 donation in 2011, to the Fisher House, which helps provide homes to veterans and their families.
While essentially shafting charities benefiting veterans, the foundation was far more open-handed with conservative political groups and religious charities. This includes a $10,000 contribution in 2010 to Generation Rescue, an organization created by actress Jenny McCarthy that spreads scientifically inaccurate information about the link between vaccines and autism.
The foundation’s tax forms also show that it gave $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2012. That same year, it gave a comparatively paltry $5,000 to the Heroes to Heroes Foundation, a group that helps veterans with PTSD. Beyond the financial contributions to religious organizations, it seems that the Trump Foundation was also trying to curry favor with shadowy political outfits.
The foundation gave $10,000 in 2012 to the Drumthwacket Foundation, which helps maintain the New Jersey governor’s mansion—and is dogged by charges that donors use it to curry favor with whoever is the state’s current governor (in this instance, fellow presidential candidate Chris Christie).
The differences between financial contributions to veterans’ groups and political organizations are enormous in some cases.
In 2013, Trump’s foundation gave $1,000 to Friends of Veterans Inc. and $5,000 to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. That same year, it dumped $50,000 on the American Conservative Union Foundation—boosting the group that hosts the annual conservative CPAC confab.
As has been the case with Trump’s politics, his foundation has also waffled allegiances granting contributions to charities with diametrically opposed interests.
For example, in 2013, it gave $10,000 to the Iowa Family Leader Foundation—boosting a group dogmatically opposed to same-sex marriage. But the year before, it gave $20,000 to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. So regardless of your views on gay rights, the Trump Foundation has backed some group you should find extremely upsetting.
And the organization has always kept its friends close.
In 2014, it gave $25,000 to the American Spectator Foundation—a foundation backing a small conservative magazine whose contributing editor Jeffrey Lord is one of the most reliably pro-Trump voices on cable news.
Above and beyond his giving priorities, Trump himself has a less than admirable record on veterans issues. The closest he ever came to military service was being a cadet at a military academy in the early 1960s, where he earned a medal for cleanliness. When a real war in Vietnam broke out, Trump was of prime age to be drafted—but ducked service multiple times.
While Trump was busy studying, John McCain was getting tortured by his captors in North Vietnam, refusing an offer to return to the U.S. early. Trump later said the fact that Trump got captured meant he wasn’t a real hero.
And if openly insulting all POWs everywhere wasn’t enough, Trump has also lobbied hard in the past to keep disabled veterans from being street vendors near his Trump Tower.
So as Trump tries to brand himself as a noble hero for the blueblooded American cause of veterans, his foundation has an extensive history of shafting the very people who he is now using as political puppets.
Not only has his charitable arm not reached the hands of people coming back from war, it has instead lined the pockets of political interests like the Clintons, against whom Trump claims he is currently fighting.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that the Trump Foundation had donated money to the WWE. The WWE donated to the Trump Foundation.