In January, Donald Trump skipped a televised Republican debate in Iowa and held his own event instead — a rally to raise money for veterans. Trump said it was a huge success.
“One hour. Six million dollars,” Trump told a campaign rally in Iowa a few days later, boasting about the total raised. He listed more than 20 groups that would receive money. “These people that get these checks are amazing people, amazing people.”
More than a month later, about half of the money, roughly $3 million, has been donated to veterans’ charities, according to a summary released Thursday by the Trump campaign in response to inquiries from The Washington Post.
In recent days, after the campaign initially did not provide details of where the money had gone, The Post had undertaken its own accounting. After contacting each of the 24 charities that Trump had previously listed as his beneficiaries, The Post had accounted for less than half of the $6 million.
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, said Trump still intended to give the rest of the money away to veterans groups. She also criticized the news media for repeated inquiries into what became of the funds.
“If the media spent half as much time highlighting the work of these groups and how our veterans have been so mistreated, rather than trying to disparage Mr. Trump’s generosity for a totally unsolicited gesture for which he had no obligation, we would all be better for it,” Hicks wrote in an email.
Trump’s fundraiser highlighted the billionaire presidential candidate’s remarkable ability to draw people, attention and money to any cause he chooses. Trump enticed enormous gifts from wealthy friends, including Stewart Rahr, a colorful New York philanthropist who calls himself “Stewie Rah Rah, the Number One King of All Fun.” Their money became life-altering gifts for some small charities, which received $50,000 or $100,000 each.
But the aftermath of that event showed another side of Trump’s campaign: its tendency to focus on front-end spectacle over back-end details. The rollout of contributions has raised questions about how long Trump would keep donated funds within the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a personal charity whose gifts can boost his political brand.
“Where’s the rest of the money going?” said Keith David at the Task Force Dagger Foundation, which offers support to Special Operations personnel and their families.
David’s group typifies the confusion over Trump’s money. It was listed by Trump as a group that would benefit from his fundraising. And soon after the Iowa fundraising event, the group got a check for $50,000. It came from Rahr’s foundation, with a note that mentioned Trump.
But was that it? The group’s board — noting the huge amount of money that Trump raised and the lesser amount of money Trump seemed to have given out — decided it could not be.
“There’s a large chunk missing. I’m just kind of curious as to where that money went,” David said. “I’d like to see some of it come to us, because we are on the list.”