A tiny veterans’ charity stood up the behemoth that is Donald Trump when they refused to accept his donation if it meant being used as a political prop. Much like the story of David and Goliath, they triumphed.
Keith Howard is the executive director of Liberty House, a small but “scrappy” New Hampshire veterans group. On Friday, he received a call from a Trump campaign staffer who said the GOP candidate wanted to make a $100,000 donation to the group, to be publicly presented at a campaign rally on Saturday; conveniently just ahead of the state’s primaries.
Seeing that Trump was obviously planning to use the organization as a publicity prop in a last minute effort to suck in voters, Howard said something that the Republican campaign surely wasn’t expecting: No.
Liberty House’s yearly budget is only $300,000; Trump’s donation would have been a third of that. To a charity that tiny, $100,000 is huge. That money would have gone a long way towards providing clothing, food, and shelter to the veterans Liberty House helps.
Howard said he will not allow his organization and the veterans they support to be used for political gains. He also doesn’t believe that he should accept money on behalf of the organization at a political rally, any political rally.
This is not directed at the Trump campaign,” Howard said. “This is about any campaign.
The group had been chosen as one of 22 veterans organizations to benefit from the multimillion dollar fundraiser held by the narcissistic candidate. Instead of attending the last debate hosted by Fox News, he threw a temper tantrum because Megan Kelly was a moderator and organized his own event instead.
Shrewdly, Trump decided his hissy fit fundraiser should benefit veterans, for maximum media coverage and to tug at patriotic heartstrings. The event was widely criticized as having used veterans as pawns in a political publicity game.
Howard also said that he was concerned Liberty House’s nonprofit status could be put in jeopardy if he appeared onstage with a political candidate at a rally. An expert in the state attorney general’s office agreed with Howard’s concerns, and also said that he found it odd that the call came from a campaign staffer rather than a representative from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
Larry Noble, general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said interaction between Trump’s campaign and foundation could be a significant problem.
The campaign utilizing the foundation to help support and promote campaign events is a potential legal problem for both the campaign and the Trump Foundation.
The foundation is not permitted to be involved in any political activities, such as campaign rallies, and any work the foundation did to aid the campaign could be considered an illegal campaign contribution.
Neither the foundation nor other charities should be working hand-in-hand with the campaign to promote Trump’s campaign events.
Howard however, managed to find a way for Liberty House to still receive the donation, but not be part of Trump’s campaign circus. So he called the campaign back. “This is not the right thing to be doing,” he told them, and then suggested they find another way for the group to receive the donation without having to be paraded across the stage at a campaign rally.
After we said that we would take the money, I got between 15 to 20 emails calling me a whore, a prostitute, and saying that I had sold out. I feel very comfortable with what we’re doing, with taking money to help homeless veterans.” Howard said. “But I’ll be god damned if I, in any way, support a political candidate or make a campaign appearance with any candidates. We stand for doing the right thing.
On Saturday, the Trump campaign caved to Howard’s demands.
New Hampshire State Rep. Al Baldasaro, who is a Trump supporter (shudder), contacted Howard and offered to accept the check at Saturday’s rally himself, to then be delivered to Howard in a less attention grabbing way. Baldasaro told reporters:
Liberty House was told by an attorney they could lose their nonprofit status it they are on the stage with Trump… I disagree but respect Keith’s wishes. The check will be presented to me on Monday at the event and I will set up a time to come to Liberty House or do it at the Hall of Flags on behalf of the Trump Foundation.
When all was said and done, Howard, who was willing to risk such a large sum of money to stand up for the principles he believed strongly in, made the following statement:
Liberty House got the mountain to move to us, instead of us going to the mountain of cash. I can take pride that we maintained our position. I am glad that the Trump campaign has found a way to follow through on what it promised to do.
We are not afraid to do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing, and it would not be right for me to appear with any political candidate simply to be used as a prop or a tool. We’re very thankful that the Trump Foundation is donating money, but we’re not going to change what we do in any way for a paycheck.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore