Shortly after they floated this offer, Carly Fiorina swooped in and offered to donate $2 million to veterans’ groups if Trump would debate her. Do I hear $2.5 million from anyone? How about if Jeb’s Super PAC offers $5 million to whichever candidate stops using wounded soldiers as props for their latest stupid campaign stunt?
Evidently veterans are poker chips for Republican politicians:
Super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz say they will donate $1.5 million to charities committed to helping veterans if rival Donald Trump agrees to a one-on-one debate with Cruz.
“Not only would this be a heck of a debate, but it would also be a terrific opportunity to generate millions of dollars for the veterans,” the Keep the Promise I and II PACs said in a joint statement Wednesday night.
Trump started it, Team Cruz will say, by cynically scheduling a rally for veterans in lieu of his debate boycott tonight, but countering with this is just one exploitative pander to answer another. I assume Cruz will repudiate it if and when he’s asked about it tonight (he’ll note that he has no control over his Super PACs) and probably encourage the PACs to make the donation whether Trump accepts the offer or not, if only to save face. That’s the only upside to all of this — in their bid to out-pander each other, Trump and Cruz will have no choice but to follow through on some charity for veterans.
Or is it unfair to suggest that this is motivated mainly by pandering? Here’s a bit from John McCormack’s look into Trump’s charitable donations to veterans’ groups over the years:
Some veterans say that the billionaire has been AWOL when it comes to helping veterans. “Donald Trump is not a leader in veterans’ philanthropy, unless he’s donated a lot of money that nobody knows about,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the New York Times in July. “We were founded in New York. We are headquartered in New York. I’ve been here 10 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Donald Trump.”…
The Trump Foundation’s $57,000 in donations to veterans groups from 2009 to 2013 amounted to far less than Trump’s donations to the Clinton Foundation. “Trump is listed on the Clinton Foundation’s donor page as having given somewhere between $100,001 and $250,000,” the Daily Caller reported last year.
Rieckhoff tweeted yesterday that his group will decline any donations from Trump’s event tonight if offered because he doesn’t like seeing vets used for “political stunts.” Here’s another piece on Trump’s history with vets that’s making the rounds as we creep towards debate night:
The Trump who now extols veterans spent years clamoring for New York City’s politicians to take action and ban even those street vendors with special disabled veteran’s licenses from the environs of Trump Tower.
As was reported in the New York Daily News, Trump wrote in a letter to the New York state Assembly back in 1991, “While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its tax paying citizens and businesses?”
He went on, “Do we allow Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?”
Cruz and Trump have each been accused of stinginess towards charity before, although suddenly their campaigns are climbing over each other to help vets as Iowa gets ready to vote. Go figure. And they may not be the only ones: In case you missed the update to last night’s Huckabee post, Trump claimed this morning that other candidates are eager to show up at tonight’s rally.
Wow, two candidates called last night and said they want to go to my event tonight at Drake University.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2016
I saw somewhere earlier on social media (but can’t find the source now) that Fiorina said she hasn’t reached out to Trump about attending the rally. Since all the top-tier guys will be busy at the time with the main debate, that leaves just three possibilities: Huckabee, Santorum, and Jim Gilmore. Huck and/or Santo couldn’t possibly have an ulterior motive in showing up to a rally for vets in Iowa alongside Trump at a moment when they’re both desperate for exposure and trying to claw back social-con voters from Cruz, could they?
Update: And there you go.
Scoop: Huckabee will be attending the Trump vets event tonight, a Huckabee spokesman tells me.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 28, 2016
Update: Annnnd scene.
Brabender says Santorum going to the rally with Trump tonight too
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 28, 2016