While his Republican rivals debated in Des Moines, Iowa, late last month, Donald Trump was just miles away at Drake University holding a fundraiser for veterans. The Republican presidential front-runner said he personally donated $1 million, and, all told, the event reportedly raised $6 million for veterans groups. A corresponding website says an additional $1.67 million dollars has been raised online.
Yet, to date, most of that money has not reached the organizations the Trump Foundation identified as recipients.
Of course, charitable giving can take time. Organizations with knowledge of the process explained that money distributed by fundraisers like the one held by Trump on January 28 can reach their intended recipients almost instantly — or in some cases, months later.
In this case, organizations in states with early voting contests appear to be on the fast track. The Donald J. Trump Foundation put out this list of 22 organizations that would receive money from the Drake University fundraiser.
MSNBC attempted to contact all 22 of the organizations on the list. Of the 13 we were able to reach, nine organizations say they have received no funds yet. Most of those groups say they have had little to no contact with the Trump organization, save for an initial call to see if they would be open to receiving a donation.
One organization, Projects for Patriots based in Sioux City, Iowa, says it is a relatively new non-profit and is still getting its paperwork in order so that it can receive funds. Projects for Patriots is one of the few organizations that says it has heard from the Trump organization in order to get a donation set up. In fact, a representative from the group was asked to appear publicly with Trump in order to receive a check.
Also based in Iowa are the two organizations that so far have received money thanks to the Des Moines fundraiser. Just two days after the Thursday night event, Puppy Jake, an organization that helps military veterans with trained service dogs, received a check for $100,000 when three families with the group attended a campaign event with Trump in Davenport, Iowa. Another Iowa organization, Support Siouxland Soldiers, received a check for $100,000 the day before the Iowa caucuses. Founder Sarah Petersen appeared with Trump on stage at a campaign rally in Sioux City.
In New Hampshire, the Trump campaign attempted to set up a similar show. Liberty House executive director Keith Howard was invited to appear with Trump on stage at a campaign event to receive a check for his organization, which helps homeless veterans with housing. Howard was told the check would be six figures. He declined. “It would not be right for me to appear with any political candidate simply to be used as a prop or a tool,” Howard told "The Daily Beast."
Howard said he received a phone call from two people with the Trump campaign who were disappointed with his use of the word “prop.” He felt those callers — one of them New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro — implied that his comments put at risk future donations from the Trump organization. Reached by phone late afternoon Monday, Baldasaro completely rejected the notion that any such implication was made. He said he respects Howard’s decision not to appear at the campaign event.
Notably, Baldasaro was on hand with Trump on Monday in Londonderry, New Hampshire, for the presentation of an oversize check for $100,000 made out to Liberty House, even though he has no official affiliation with the organization. Baldasaro says he will forward the check to Liberty House.
Neither the Trump campaign nor the Donald J. Trump Foundation have responded to requests for comment to this story.
Several questions remain. Since not all of the organizations could be reached by MSNBC, it is unclear if more than three of the 22 groups identified to receive funds have received any money at this point. Also unclear is whether more than $300,000 of $7 million-plus raised has been distributed at this time.
One thing that is apparent, however, is that Trump has turned his charitable giving into an opportunity to be the bearer of big checks — at least in the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.