When Donald Trump announced in late 2005 that he was launching a Trump-branded vodka, many who knew him were flabbergasted. Trump has been a teetotaler his entire life, and he blames alcohol for the early death of his big brother, Freddy Trump.
"I sort of hated doing it," Trump said at the time of his vodka-licensing deal. "My brother, Fred, who was the best, ended up being an alcoholic. And I learned a lot about alcohol and alcoholism from Fred."
Perhaps to soothe his conscience, Trump said then that he would donate all the money he made from the deal to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the impaired-driving prevention group.
"I’m going to give 100 percent of that money to them in honor of my late brother, Fred Trump," Trump wrote in December 2005. "I guarantee you that Fred is looking down now and saying, 'That’s really the best thing to do.'"
But MADD never received any money from Trump or his vodka.
"Conversation [with Trump] began in 2005," but "MADD declined the donation in 2006 due to our policy against accepting donations from the sale of alcohol," a spokeswoman for the group said.
Despite MADD's rebuff, Trump remained determined to give away his vodka proceeds. Or so he said.
Trump recounted on Larry King's CNN show later in 2006 that "a great company came to me and they wanted to do a vodka. I'm giving the money to charity."
Despite Trump's promises, there appears to be no record he donated money from Trump Vodka to charity.
Neither Trump's campaign team nor a spokeswoman for his private business, the Trump Organization, provided The Huffington Post with any information about what happened to the Trump Vodka money.
Questions surrounding the Trump Vodka proceeds are the latest entry on a list of promises Trump has made to donate money to charity, only to seemingly fail to follow through.
In late May, The Washington Post revealed that Trump had not made good on a promise in January to donate $1 million to military veterans’ groups. Trump only cut a check after the Post's article was published on May 24, calling out the billionaire.
Trump also faces questions about what happened to money from his most recent book, Crippled America, which he pledged to donate to charity. In May, Trump reported earning more than $1 million in royalties from the book. But there were no signs that he gave away any of it. His staff refused to answer questions.
The company that licensed Trump Vodka ran out of money after a few years in production. In 2010, the Trump Vodka distillery went bankrupt, and a year later, the licensor, Drinks America, was sold to a Mexican company.
"Trump may not be the person to blame for Trump Vodka’s bad timing, overmatched distillery, topless teenager, melted mini-bottles, retreat to China, or lost credit," writes Bloomberg's Max Abelson. "But in his office a decade ago, after making sure the cameras were rolling, he chose to do a deal with people who didn’t have the money or experience behind them to win."
Trump, of course, disputes the characterization that Trump Vodka was a flop. It "was a successful product, which continues to be popular abroad, and ultimately morphed into expanding my interests in the spirits industry,” Trump said in a statement to Bloomberg.
Trump failed to mention that he sued Drinks America in 2011, alleging it failed to pay him the full amount promised from Trump Vodka. Trump demanded $4.8 million from his former partners, according to legal filings.
There's no indication that Trump received the money, or that he gave any of it to charity.
"I won’t put my name on just anything. I would never endorse a product that I don’t believe in," Trump wrote a few months after he launched Trump Vodka.
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