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What happened to Trump's donations to veterans?

Story highlights

  • Donald Trump drew much fanfare when he skipped a Republican debate in January to host a rally that he has said raised millions of dollars for veterans
  • But one question has lingered since the event: Where's the money?

(CNN)Donald Trump drew much fanfare when he skipped a Republican debate in January to host a rally that he has said raised millions of dollars for veterans, but one question has lingered since the event: Where's the money?

The Trump campaign said 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 campaign did not provide specifics earlier this week, but after a CNN report aired Thursday morning questioning the contributions, a spokeswoman shared a list in the afternoon showing 27 veterans organizations that have received a total of $2.9 million to date.
    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 fundraiser.
    "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 said Thursday.
    Yet the vice president for Charity Navigator, Sandra Miniutti, said she believes the money should have already been dispersed.
    Miniutti said some fundraisers 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 fundraising was so public, I think it's fair to question why the funds haven't been paid out," Miniutti said.
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    Miniutti noted that the organizations on Trump's list that have been ranked by Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that evaluates charities, have received positive ratings.
    Prior to the release of specific contributions on Thursday, the campaign only listed 22 beneficiaries on its website without clarifying how much each would receive. When contacted by CNN, only nine groups confirmed they had received payments totaling $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 $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.
    In a letter to 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."
    Trump hosted the fundraiser on January 28 in Des Moines, Iowa, after deciding to skip a Fox News debate due to an ongoing feud with the network. The Republican front-runner has repeatedly expressed outrage on the campaign trail over what he sees as mistreatment of veterans as if they are "third-class citizens."
    But some veteran organizations have publicly critiqued Trump for politicizing contributions to benefit veterans.
    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder Paul Rieckhoff said he would decline any contributions that came from the January event.
    "We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts," Rieckhoff tweeted before the fundraiser.
    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 receipt of a donation from Mr. Trump's foundation does not imply an endorsement for his political campaign," the group said in a statement.
    A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the debate Trump skipped.