While most of the leading Republican presidential candidates attended a Fox News-hosted debate in Iowa on 28 January 2016, Donald Trump boycotted the event (as a protest over Fox’s allowing Megyn Kelly, whom Trump felt had asked him “unfair questions in a previous debate, to serve as a moderator) and instead hosted his own event as a fund-raiser for veterans.
Trump instructed supporters to visit the website of the Donald J Trump Foundation for Vets in order to make donations to the cause. Some potential donors were skeptical, however, as the receiving entity was listed as the Donald J Trump Foundation and not a veterans’ charity:
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.
Around half of the $5.6 million raised by Trump during his veterans’ charity event on 28 January 2016 was initially paid to the Donald J Trump Foundation, before then being distributed to veterans groups. The rest of the funds raised were donated directly to veterans charities, without first passing through the foundation. It’s inaccurate to say that the money ended up in the candidate’s personal account or was used to fund his presidential campaign.
The handling of the donations became part of the focus of a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General’s office against the Trump Foundation, the president, and Ivanka and Eric Trump in June 2018. The lawsuit alleged that the joint operation of the fundraiser by the Trump foundation and the Trump’s presidential campaign, among other examples, constituted “improper political activity.” When the case was finally settled in 2019, the New York Supreme Court noted that “the Funds did ultimately reach their intended destinations, i.e., charitable organizations supporting veterans.”
In response to queries over the matter, on 31 May 2016 Donald Trump held a press conference to announce that he eventually gave “close to six million dollars” to veterans’ groups and that the press “should be ashamed of themselves” for asking questions about the money he donated.
“I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job,” Trump said in a press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan. He issued a list of the veterans groups who received the money, saying that “As of this moment, [the total amount donated] is $5.6 million. All of the money has been spent.”
Trump said he didn’t release the names of the veterans organizations sooner because he wanted to respect their privacy and asserted that the money for a number of these groups had already been delivered some time earlier.
Trump’s list of checks already issued read as follows:
Achilles International : $200,000
American Hero Adventures: $100,000
Americas for equal living: $100,000
America’s vet dogs: the veteran canine corp Inc: $75,000
Armed Services YMCA: $75,000
Bob Woodruff Family Foundation Inc: $75,000
Central Iowa Shelter and Services: $100,000
Connected Warriors Inc: $75,000
Disabled American Veterans Charity: $115,000
Fisher House Foundation: $115,000
Folds of Honor Foundation: $200,000
Foundation for American Veterans: $75,000
Freedom Alliance : $75,000
Green Beret Foundation: $350,000
Higher Heroes USA: $75,000
Homes for our Troops: $100,000
Honoring America’s Warriors: $100,000
Hope for the Warriors: $65,000
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund: $175,000
Canines for Warriors: $50,000
Liberty House: $100,00
Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation: $1.1m (including $1m from Trump himself, he says)
Navy Seal Foundation: $465,000
Navy Marine Corps Relief Society: $75,000
New England Wounded Vets Inc: $75,000
Operation Home Front: $65,000
Project for Patriots: $100,000 (this “check is check is ready to go” but Trump is still vetting the group, he says, awaiting an “IRS determination letter”. “They have to give us that final document”.
Puppy Jake Foundation: $100,000
Racing for Heroes, Inc: $200,000
Support Siouxland Soldiers: $100,000
Task Force Dagger Foundation: $50,000
The Mission Continues: $75,000
National Military Families Inc: $75,000
Veterans Airlift Command: $100,000
Veterans Count: $25,000
Veterans in Command Inc: $150,000
Vietnam Veterans Workshop Inc: $75,000
Warriors for Freedom Foundation: $50,000
“And I believe we’re going to have some more coming in.”