February 6, 2016; Daily Beast
Liberty House, a small veteran’s charity in New Hampshire, has a $300,000 annual budget, but it turned down a donation that would have covered a third of that with no regrets.
Keith Howard, the organization’s executive director, says they were contacted by a Trump campaign staffer who said Trump would like to publicly present them with a six-figure check at a Londonderry rally—on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. Howard believes that receiving the money presented that way could put his tax-exempt status in jeopardy, a notion he confirmed via a call to the attorney general’s office.
Howard seems to be unfazed by turning money away; readers may remember that he recently turned down money from HUD because it did not fit the organization’s program model. But, in this case, Howard, a veteran of the U.S. Army, believes that it is a matter of principle, and that receiving the donation by a political candidate at a political rally is just wrong.
Howard called the Trump staffer back and suggested that the check might be mailed. He was, in fact glad to take the money and was not making a stand based on opposition to Trump, apparently. “This is not directed at the Trump campaign,” Howard said. “This is about any campaign.”
Larry Noble, general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, says it is not only Liberty House that should be concerned. “The campaign utilizing the foundation to help support and promote campaign events is a potential legal problem for both the campaign and the Trump Foundation,” he said. “Neither the foundation nor other charities should be working hand-in-hand with the campaign to promote Trump’s campaign events,” he said.
According to Howard, “After we said that we would take the money, I got between 15 to 20 emails calling me a whore, a prostitute, and saying that I had sold out. I feel very comfortable with what we’re doing, with taking money to help homeless veterans. But I’ll be goddamned if I, in any way, support a political candidate or make a campaign appearance with any candidates. We stand for doing the right thing.”
New Hampshire State Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Trump supporter, eventually called Howard, telling him the mogul would present the check to Baldasaro, himself a vet. The state representative would then deliver the check to Liberty House:
Liberty House was told by an attorney they could lose their nonprofit status if they are on the stage with Trump. […] I disagree but respect Keith’s wishes. The check will be presented to me on Monday at the event and I will set up a time to come to Liberty House or do it at the Hall of Flags on behalf of the Trump Foundation
“Liberty House got the mountain to move to us, instead of us going to the mountain of cash,” Howard told the Daily Beast. “I can take pride that we maintained our position. I am glad that the Trump campaign has found a way to follow through on what it promised to do.”
“We are not afraid to do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing, and it would not be right for me to appear with any political candidate simply to be used as a prop or a tool,” Howard said. “We’re very thankful that the Trump Foundation is donating money, but we’re not going to change what we do in any way for a paycheck.” Is this a distinction without a difference?—Ruth McCambridge