A Silicon Valley Billionaire Just Challenged Donald Trump in the Best Way Possible

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman will donate up to $5 million to veterans groups if Trump releases his tax returns.

Tony Avelar/AP

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman just made Donald Trump an offer that should entice the GOP nominee who claims to have donated millions to veterans: If Trump releases his tax returns by October 19, the date of the last presidential debate, Hoffman will donate up to $5 million to veteran groups.

The original idea came from a crowd-funding campaign started by Peter Kiernan, a veteran of the Marines who was once deployed to Afghanistan. Kiernan said he would donate to 10 veteran’s groups should Trump release his taxes and began raising money to do so on Crowdpac.com.

In a Medium post published on Monday afternoon, LinkedIn co-founder Hoffman expressed his support for Kiernan’s campaign, and upped the ante by promising to quintuple the final total raised by Kiernan, up to $5 million.

Kiernan explained his reasoning on the campaign’s site. “Any servicemember who has ever held a security clearance has been subjected to a rigorous background check, including personal finances, affiliations, and drug activity…[T]o be the Commander-in-Chief of this group, you should be held to the same standards.”

In his post, Hoffman also noted both the tactic and the actual dollar amount should have special significance to the GOP nominee: In 2012, Trump offered Barack Obama $5 million to release his college transcripts, his passport applications, and other documents.

As BuzzFeed points out, Hoffman’s intentions might not just be about the 2016 election. He was an early investor in Crowdpac, the site hosting Kiernan’s crowd-funding campaign, so he potentially stands to benefit financially from raising the site’s profile.

In January, Trump skipped a Republican primary debate in Iowa and instead held a fundraiser for veterans during the same time slot. (He initially claimed to have donated $6 million from the event to veteran charities, but his campaign has significantly decreased that estimate following reports suggesting the initial figure was inflated.) But the nominee has also been adamant about keeping his tax returns from the public eye: Though he promised to release them in May, he has since reversed his position, saying he would withhold the records because he was being audited by the IRS. (The agency has said that’s not necessary.)

As Hoffman explains, the proposal “gives Trump a strong incentive to act but doesn’t reward him directly for something he should have already done. Instead, men and women to whom all Americans owe a great debt of gratitude will benefit from any positive action he takes.”

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.