That comment mirrors concerns among veterans that their groups not be caught up in the political swirl of the Trump campaign — but tempted by the vast amounts of attention and money the Trump spotlight can bring. By law, many of the groups are organized as tax exempt nonprofits, and barred from participating in politics. And of course, many donors to veterans' groups are Democrats and the nonprofit leadership wants to be careful not to alienate them.
The Trump event, held Thursday night at Drake University, was hastily put together by the campaign after the billionaire real estate investor decided to skip the Fox News Channel debate the same evening. Trump announced his event would benefit veterans, but it was unclear exactly which groups would receive money. The Trump campaign said any money raised would first go to Trump's family charitable foundation. Trump said he had donated $1 million himself, and the investor Carl Icahn gave $500,000. Through the day Thursday, veterans groups were scrambling to figure out who would get the cash.
All told, the Trump campaign said the event took in $6 million for the Trump Foundation and the proceeds will be given to 22 organizations. (Click here for the list.)
Among the groups on the list was the Fisher House Foundation, which said Friday it would accept the donation because the money was coming from the Trump Foundation, which has supported the Rockville, Maryland-based group in the past.
"We would never be part of an event like that, nor would we take money from the Trump campaign," Fisher House vice president Kerri Childress said. "But Donald Trump has donated to Fisher House in the past, and his son Eric even hosted a golf tournament for us at one point. Because this money is coming from the Trump Foundation we can accept the money. We are very appreciative of his generosity in the past and we are at this point as well. We're very proud to accept the money and we will put it to the best use possible."
She said the foundation hadn't been told how much money it was to receive.
Speaking before the event, Fisher House Chief of Staff Mary Considine said she doubted her group would work with Trump. Considine said the group has three criteria for fundraising events: They must honor the service of veterans, be family friendly and be apolitical.
The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff tweeted Thursday that his group would decline any donations from Trump's event. "We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts," he wrote.
David Brog, executive director of the Air Warrior Courage Foundation, said before the event that he and other veterans were scrambling to find out more about Trump's intentions. "We are all wondering who he's doing this for, we have no idea," Brog said. "I'm not sure what the guy's doing. I stay out of it because the foundation can't be involved with politics."