Did Trump Fundraiser Funnel Donations to Iowa and New Hampshire First?

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February 9, 2016; MSNBC

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, NPQ is taking another moment to air our concerns about Donald Trump, particularly after he won the New Hampshire primary last night. Again, we worry about how Donald Trump has been using veteran issues and veteran charities to buoy his presidential campaign. If you have been following NPQ’s coverage of veteran charities, our concern is not limited to Trump. Rather, it extends to how often veteran issues and well-meaning donors are easily manipulated for self-serving purposes.

Case in point: Trump’s veterans’ fundraiser as an alternative to the GOP debate in Des Moines, Iowa, last month. At the time, we questioned Trump’s motives in planning the event, given how little his nonprofit, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, has given to veterans in recent years. We have also spotlighted his tactics to invite veterans groups to be publically presented with donations from his campaign. Now, as some of the money collected from the fundraiser has been slowly seeping out, it’s interesting to look at where the money is going and where it’s not. According to an MSNBC investigation, some charities located in New Hampshire and Iowa, the two early voting states, have received donations, while charities from some other states have not yet.

The fundraiser from last month reportedly raised $6 million to be doled out by the Trump Foundation to 22 lucky recipients. A separate site also allegedly raised another $1.67 million, another impressive number. The list of the 22 recipients was originally on the foundation’s website as early as Tuesday morning, but was removed for most of Tuesday afternoon. NPQ found the list of the charities through searching Google Cache. (UPDATE: the webpage is back online at the time of publication). While we won’t speculate about why the webpage was down, we do find it interesting to see which charities have received part of the $8 million and which have not.

MSNBC attempted to contact the 22 recipients and received responses from thirteen. Of those thirteen charities, nine said they had not received any donations yet and most said they have not had contact with the Trump Foundation aside from the initial call asking if they would accept the donation. It’s important to note that MSNBC did not receive responses from every charity and did not report which of the thirteen charities they spoke to had indicated they had not received donations yet. We also don’t know whether the remaining nine charities MSNBC was not able to get in touch with have received a donation.

According to the article, three charities in Iowa and one in New Hampshire have received donations raised by the fundraiser. All four charities profiled in MSNBC received $100,000. Representatives from each of these charities from Iowa appeared in public with Trump sometime before the Iowa Caucus last week. From Iowa, these charities are:

  • Projects for Patriots, a recently founded nonprofit in Sioux City, Iowa. (NOTE: apparently the nonprofit is too recently founded to have a GuideStar profile).
  • Puppy Jake, another recent nonprofit that helps veterans with trained service dogs in Davenport, Iowa.
  • Support Siouxland Soldiers, another veteran’s charity in Sioux City, Iowa.

From New Hampshire, NPQ wrote about nonprofit Liberty House receiving a donation from Trump but refusing to appear in public with the politician. This was not done in anyway to malign Trump, according to executive director Keith Howard, but rather because he did not want to entangle with politics. Nevertheless, Howard did reportedly receive the donation, and Trump also held a public showing of the $100,000 check being symbolically given to New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro on behalf of Liberty House. Baldasaro has no official connection to the nonprofit.

What can we glean from this information? As we mentioned, some portion of the information we need is still missing. However, it would also be a mistake to dismiss that four nonprofits based in important voting states have already received their donations when nonprofits in other states have not. At the very least, the public showings of nonprofit directors and executives appearing in public with Trump in exchange for donations are a cause for concern.

However, there has also been an evident lack of transparency about the donations from the Trump Foundation. As indicated by MSNBC, some of the recipients have yet to be informed about any timeline for when they will receive the donation. We also have yet to hear about how these specific nonprofits were chosen or vetted. As with any charity, particularly one that makes high profile promises and commitments as the Trump Foundation, we should expect a more transparent process.—Shafaq Hasan

  • Scott Dixon

    You do not sound like a broken record; I enjoy reading your points of view. You write a very informative article. I don’t quite understand NPQ’s foray into politics but at least you do exhibit innovative thinking.
    Two points I might raise if I may: First, I’ll address a point by asking a question. If you were running for president and incidentally directed a family foundation that suddenly received $6 million in restricted contributions to transfer in order to satisfy the restricted purpose, who would receive the money first? Would it possibly be nonprofits in the two states in which you were competing first holding a primary or caucus? Or, say, Alaska and Hawaii? The fact that the former path was chosen doesn’t present anything sinister, just level-headed judgment. A large part of your article suggests that the foundation’s actions were manipulative. I won’t suggest you inferred underhandedness, but certainly manipulative.
    Secondly, why do you care about the transparency of the foundation? They will do as they said they will do, exactly. The foundation received approximately $6 million, or more, in restricted contributions raised during a very public fundraiser, right? In light of strict nonprofit laws imposed at the state and federal level, what do you think they are going to do with the money, blow it on a golf course? Do not think any of this was lost on state charitable solicitation boards and most certainly the IRS. I have no doubt they will do as they say. I am an auditor who advises numerous nonprofits on federal tax and state nonprofit laws. They will do as they say.
    Lastly, you are correct that nonprofit officers appearing in official capacity with political candidates can be a cause for concern, simply because you don’t know who’s watching and interpreting behavior. However, if the officials kept their mouths shut except to offer gracious smiles and thank-you’s, they should be ok.

    • Liz Papineau

      Transparency of a non profit is very important. The public wants to know that their contributions to the Trump Foundation will be utilized to the benefit of the Veterans organizations. Why would it be so far fetched to believe that an NPO will spend money on a golf course? Children’s Cancer Fund of America didn’t send cancer stricken children to Disney World…they sent themselves.
      Trump’s 2014 990 form was not submitted until November of 2015. If he submits it about the same time this year, it will be well after the national election…and possibly long after the thought of giving to the Veterans organizations has faded.
      This was a good article, Shafaq.