Only CNN Asks: What Happened to Trump Rally's Donations for Veterans?

It's been more than six weeks since Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump chose not to attend a GOP debate hosted by the Fox News Channel to put on a rally he said raised $6 million for veterans, and since then, only the Cable News Network has asked the crucial question: “What happened to Trump's donations to veterans?”

According to an article by CNN investigators Drew Griffin, Curt Devine and Mercy Yang, Trump “hosted the fund-raiser on January 28 in Des Moines, Iowa, after deciding to skip a Fox News debate due to an ongoing feud” with Megyn Kelly, host of the popular weeknight program The Kelly File.

The candidate's website noted that he Republican billionaire has repeatedly expressed outrage on the campaign trail over what he sees as mistreatment of veterans as if they are "third-class citizens."

As a result of the hastily arranged rally, “the event raised $6 million for different veterans groups, with Trump himself contributing $1 million, but details released by the campaign Thursday show only about half of that money has been dispersed so far.”

The reporters then stated: “Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN the contributions will continue as money comes in, and she critiqued what she describes as misplaced scrutiny on the fund-raising event.”

On Thursday, Hicks added:

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.

Yet the vice president for Charity Navigator, Sandra Miniutti, said “some fund-raisers rightfully take time to distribute payments if the recipients have to be vetted, such as after public emergencies, but she said Trump's campaign established a clear list of organizations to benefit.”

"There is no hard rule for turn-around time, but because the fund-raising was so public, I think it's fair to question why the funds haven't been paid out," Miniutti added.

The campaign previously listed only 22 beneficiaries on its website without clarifying how much each would receive.

“When contacted by CNN, only nine groups confirmed they had received payments totalling $800,000, one group said no payment had yet been made, and the rest either refused to disclose contributions or did not respond to CNN's requests for comment,” the investigators reported.

“The $2.9 million in donations made so far come from Trump's foundation or the foundations of two of his friends, business magnate Carl Icahn and pharmaceutical billionaire Stewart J. Rahr,” they stated.

In a letter to the Fisher House Foundation, which received $100,000, Rahr wrote: "Please note that this donation originated thanks to Mr. Donald Trump and our mutual admiration of our nation's veterans."

However, some veterans' organizations have publicly criticized Trump “for politicizing contributions to benefit veterans.”

"We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts," tweeted Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who said he would decline any contributions that came from the January event.

Nevertheless, Rieckhoff said, supporters are welcome to contribute to his group directly.

Other groups, such as Disabled American Veterans -- which reportedly received $100,000 from Trump's foundation -- have been careful to clarify that receiving a contribution does not mean Trump has their exclusive support.

"We hope all candidates will support our cause,” the group said in a statement.

Two other veterans' groups also distanced themselves from Trump's announcement.

The Wounded Warrior Project said it was not aware of the candidate conducting any fund-raising efforts on its behalf.

Meanwhile, VoteVets.org, which calls itself the nation's largest progressive veterans' group, issued a statement titled: "Don't hide from Megyn Kelly behind us."

The organizations run the gamut from groups focused on helping veterans with disabilities and mental health problems to those aimed at helping veterans reintegrate into civilian society.

Among the groups slated to receive donations from the event are: America Hero Adventures in Eugene, Ore.; Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust in Cold Spring, Ky.; and Folds of Honor in Owasso, Okla.

Homes for Our Troops in Tauntan, Mass., is also on the list to receive monetary gifts from the rally, as are Honoring America's Warriors in El Reno, Okla.; and Hope for the Warriors in Annandale, Va.

In addition, K9 for Warriors in Ponte Vedra, Fla.; Liberty House in Manchester, N.H.; and Mulberry Street Veterans Shelter in Des Moines, Iowa, are expected to be beneficiaries of the event.

Perhaps CNN's coverage regarding the slow dispersal of donations from Trump's rally will encourage other news organizations to look into this situation -- and other unfulfilled promises -- for themselves.

Campaigns & Elections CNN.com CNN Drew Griffin

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