Another Odd Story from NPQ’s “Philanthropy and the Presidential Campaign” Series

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May 24, 2016; Washington Post

It appears that once Donald Trump realized that the media’s questions about his veterans’ charity fundraiser were not going to go away, he finally made good on his $1 million pledge late Monday night. What the Washington Post describes, however, is a relatively bizarre charitable process fraught with inaccuracies.

Starting a few days after the January 28th televised fundraiser Trump organized as his alternative to that night’s GOP debate, questions were raised about where the $6 million he originally claimed to have raised ended up. Almost four months later, Trump, who had pledged $1 million, still had not actually seen fit to make good—though Cory Lewandowski, his campaign manager, claimed to the media that he had done so and that “the money was fully spent.”

Lewandowski also said about $4.5 million had been raised and that Trump’s effort had fallen short of the promised $6 million because some of the donors had reneged. Trump contradicted him on both points: “For the most part, I think they all came through,” he said. “Some of them came through very late.” He added that the amount raised was $5.5 million and denied that he had ever claimed it was $6 million.

Unsatisfied with the response, the Post took to social media, asking for any veterans’ group that had received a donation from Trump to come forward. By Monday afternoon, none had. Then, on Monday night, Trump called the home of James Kallstrom, chairman of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which helps families of fallen Marines and federal law enforcement officers, to tell him he would give the entire $1 million to that organization.

His explanation for the wait? “You have a lot of vetting to do,” Trump said in a telephone interview, though his foundation had, in fact, donated $230,000 to the group previously and the group had given the candidate its “Commandant’s Leadership Award” at their gala last year.

When asked Tuesday if he had given the money this week only because reporters had been asking about it, Trump responded, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re really a nasty guy. I gave out millions of dollars that I had no obligation to do.”

Trump’s campaign has declared that all donations will have reached their destinations by Memorial Day. On Tuesday, Andrew Biggio, founder of Boston’s Annual Wounded Vet Bike Run, reported that, “For some reason, a Trump campaign worker reached out to me today, and asked for our nonprofit number, and I gave it to ’em.”

Why the campaign is making such calls, who knows?—Ruth McCambridge