"You have to go through a process. When you send checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars to people and to companies and to groups that you've never heard of, charitable organizations, you have to vet it," Trump said. "You send people out, you do a lot of work."
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a query about how it had vetted the Foundation for American Veterans, and whether any of these ratings had come up during that review. The foundation also did not respond to emails requesting comment on Tuesday afternoon.
The Foundation for American Veterans, based in Michigan, received an "F" from the group CharityWatch. The Better Business Bureau issued an "alert" about the group in January, citing "a pattern and high volume of complaints and customer reviews" that alleged customers received "a high volume of what they consider to be harassing phone calls" from the group's solicitors. The BBB said the group had blamed the problem on its telemarketer.
An examination of the group's tax filings shows that the foundation spent just $2.4 million of its total $8 million budget on helping veterans directly in 2014.
The group spent the rest of the money in 2014 on fundraising and management expenses, with $3.5 million paid out to professional fundraising companies. Another $2 million went toward salaries and general expenses, including billing and collection services.
Those spending priorities are part of a larger pattern revealed in several years of disclosures to the IRS. Nonprofits are required to submit IRS Form 990 each year for accountability.
In 2013, the group spent just $2.5 million on veterans from its $8.1 million budget. It spent more than than $3.3 million on fundraising that year and an additional $2 million on "other expenses."
In 2012, it spent just $1.3 million of its total $7 million budget on veterans while paying out $3.5 million in professional fundraising and millions more on other expenses.
The largest fundraising contractor used by the charity has received millions of dollars from the organization over several years. Associated Community Services was paid $3.3 million by the group in 2014, $3.1 million in 2013, and about $3.2 million in 2012.
The group also spent millions of dollars on collecting pledged donations. Central Processing Services — which provides billing and collection services — was listed on several 990 Forms as having received $1.7 million in 2014, $1.8 million in 2013, and $1.7 million in 2012.
The organization spent nearly $250,000 on salaries for its three full-time members in 2014.
Alice Crites and Michelle Lee contributed to this report.