Dozens of veterans groups -- large and small, nationally known and not-so-well known -- are receiving more than $5 million in donations from presidential candidate Donald Trump.
AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Trust and the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation all received sizable checks -- with MCLEA getting $1.1 million. And spokesmen for the groups all said they are grateful for the money.
Joe Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS, said Trump's $75,000 donation, "will provide substantial support to continue our mission and proud history of assisting veterans and their families."
Edmond Boran, president of the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, told The Journal News of New York that the million-dollar donation "will really help raise our public profile."
Boran, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War said, said it's not the first time Trump donated to MC-LEF.
"Donald Trump has been a consistent supporter for years, and that's what's important to us," he told the paper. "He's been a longtime supporter of veterans and law enforcement in general."
But one veterans' organization that picked up a $75,000 donation has a history of questionable fundraising and spending practices, with several charity watchdog groups panning it for how little it spends on veterans.
Foundation for American Veterans, based in West Bloomfield, Michigan, has just one star out of four from Great Nonprofits, which draws its ratings from the public, and has an F rating from CharityWatch, which monitors and rates charities. CharityWatch analyst Stephanie Kalivas said FAV got the failing grade because it spent only 10 percent of its cash budget on programs. The organization also faulted FAV on its fundraising -- spending $85 for every $100 raised. "Top-rated charities will spend $25 or less to raise $100 in funds and 75 percent or more of their cash budget on programs," Kalivas told Military.com on Friday. Charity Navigator, another charity monitoring site, does not rate FAV because the organization is not a 501(c)(3) public charity and so does not meet the group's requirements for review.
Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV celebrity, grudgingly released a list of veteran organizations that benefited from funds he raised in January during a May 31 press conference.
"This [money] is going to phenomenal groups," Trump said during his press conference, where he said the media "should be ashamed of themselves" for demanding he identify the groups he donated to.
"Instead of being like, 'Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,' or 'Trump did a good job,' everyone said, 'Who got it? Who got it? Who got it?' " he said. "And you make me look very bad."
Trump also defended the time he took to identify the groups, saying all had to be vetted first.
Military.com asked the Trump campaign whether those vetting the groups were campaign staff or people hired from outside, but received no reply.
According to The Associated Press, Trump issued the first $1 million donation from his personal account on May 23 after a Washington Post interview where he was questioned about the funds.
The AP also reported that "the biggest batch" of donations went out about May 24, following the Post story.
Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said that whatever amount was raised and donated "did make a difference to the groups that were the beneficiaries."
VFW was not among the groups, but Davis said the attention should be on the good done by the donations.
"Properly taking care of veterans, service members and their families belongs to no political party or ideology. It is what is required when a nation sends her men and women to war," he said.
CORRECTION: In earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amounts that "top rated" charities spend for every $100 raised, and reported that Charity Navigator gave Foundation for American Veterans "zero stars" without explaining that the organization did not meet the requirements to be rated by Charity Navigator.