A small veterans charity on the New Hampshire-Vermont border is benefiting in a huge way from news stories that Republican Donald Trump stiffed the nonprofit of donations.
The Washington Post reported this month that Friends of Veterans in White River Junction, Vt., never received a $1,000 donation the Donald J. Trump Foundation reported giving the group in 2013 tax forms.
A GoFundMe account set up a week ago to “Help the Vets that Trump Forgot” has blown past its $2,000 goal and raised more than $21,400 from at least 480 contributors.
“It kind of knocked me for a loop,” said Larry Daigle, the organization’s president and a Vietnam War veteran who has volunteered with the nonprofit for 15 years. “We’re still kind of analyzing things ourselves.”
Trump’s charitable giving has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of Washington Post reports that the Republican presidential nominee used $258,000 from his charity to resolve legal problems and used foundation money to purchase portraits of himself.
News organizations had earlier this year questioned whether Trump gave money raised at a January fundraiser to veterans groups, as he promised. Trump declined for months to disclose the organization names, but in May, the businessman released a list of 40 veterans groups he said received $5.6 million in donations. Three had ties to New Hampshire.
Friends of Veterans has become entangled in both stories.
Daigle said a Trump staffer called him earlier this year about the January fundraiser.
Daigle told the man, whose name he couldn’t remember, he hoped the Vermont charity could benefit from the event. The staffer replied that Friends of Veterans was already on the radar as a beneficiary of the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 2013.
“I assured him that never happened,” Daigle said. “They were kind of shocked.”
Trump’s foundation reported in its Form 990 that it gave $1,000 to the Vermont charity in 2013. Daigle said the group never received the money.
CNN recently reported the dollars were actually received by Friends of Veterans in Palm Beach, Fla. According to its president, Jerry Klein, the charity used the money to help fund a Veterans Day parade that costs about $8,000 to put on.
The Florida nonprofit hasn’t received a donation from Trump’s foundation or his campaign since, said Klein, who served in the U.S. infantry in Vietnam. “It was the one time and the only time.”
Trump’s campaign said the foundation tax form reflects an incorrect address in Vermont for the donation to Friends of Veterans. “The $1,000 contribution went to this Florida chapter,” said Trump’s New Hampshire campaign spokesman Cory Custer.
Daigle said he hasn’t heard from either Trump organization since. But he has been getting calls from reporters.
The recent Washington Post story prompted Mark Sumner, a writer at progressive blog the Daily Kos, to reach out to Daigle and offer to set up a GoFundMe account.
Sumner did not respond to a request for comment, but Daigle said he is shocked at how much has come in. Friends of Veterans is run entirely by volunteers and spends roughly $150,000 a year helping homeless veterans cover security deposits and avoid evictions.
“We don’t just write a check and wave goodbye,” he said. We’re “helping them get on their feet.”