Donald Trump raised nearly $6 million for veterans groups, he announced during an impromptu event he held in Des Moines in protest of the Fox News debates.
One million dollars of that sum came out of the real estate billionaire’s own pocket he said during the rally, which was held at Drake University. Other fellow billionaires, such as famed investor Carl Icahn and real estate developer Phil Ruffin, contributed $1 million, too. And a website that Trump set up early Thursday morning brought in another $500,000, the presidential candidate said.
One donor Trump named during the donor roll call Thursday has a shady past. J.J. Cafaro, a mall developer from Cleveland, pleaded guilty in 2001 to bribing former Ohio Rep. Jame Traficante to help an aviation equipment company he owned. Cafaro later testified against Traficante but was arrested in 2010 for lying to federal officials about a loan he gave to his daughter’s congressional campaign.
Cafaro gave $50,000 to Trump’s veterans cause.
Other big donors Trump identified are real estate billionaire Richard LeFrak, who gave $100,000, Marvel Comics CEO Ike Perlmutter, who gave $1 million, and an anonymous donor who gave another million.
Trump announced the vet-oriented donor drive earlier this week after he said that he would not be taking part in the GOP debate if the network allowed anchor Megyn Kelly to moderate the event. Trump has feuded with Kelly since the first debate in August.
Fox declined Trump’s demand, and so the GOP front-runner set up a veterans event to run on other networks at the same time as the debate, the final one before Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
“I’m not going to do the debate out of respect for myself,” Trump said Thursday.
He set up a website early Thursday morning to accept donations from the public. That move drew controversy because, as the website noted, the donations would be routed through Trump’s private foundation, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. That charity has given just $57,000 to veterans groups while giving more than $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. (RELATED: Donations To Trump’s Pro-Vet Website Go To His Personal Charity, Which Gave To The Clinton Foundation)
Trump’s fellow GOP competitors, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, graced the stage at the protest event, which aired on CNN, C-SPAN, and MSNBC. Both took part in the undercard debate and had announced on Thursday that they would show for the Trump fundraiser. Trump also brought several veterans on stage Thursday night.
It is still not clear how Trump plans to disperse the money he raised Thursday. Santorum told CNN after the event that he had received assurances that the money would be given to veterans groups that have been properly vetted.