Politics

Nice Work If You Can Get It (Fundraising Edition)

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From yesterday's Post:

In the years since she was forced to pull her nomination as Bush's labor secretary after admitting payments to an illegal immigrant, [Linda] Chavez and her immediate family members have used phone banks and direct-mail solicitations to raise tens of millions of dollars, founding several political action committees with bankable names: the Republican Issues Committee, the Latino Alliance, Stop Union Political Abuse and the Pro-Life Campaign Committee. Their solicitations promise direct action in the "fight to save unborn lives," a vigorous struggle against "big labor bosses" and a crippling of "liberal politics in the country."

That's not where the bulk of the money wound up being spent, however. Of the $24.5 million raised by the PACs from January 2003 to December 2006, $242,000—or 1 percent—was passed on to politicians, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal election reports. The PACs spent even less—$151,236—on independent political activity, such as mailing pamphlets.

Instead, most of the donations were channeled back into new fundraising efforts, and some were used to provide a modest but steady source of income for Chavez and four family members, who served as treasurers and consultants to the committees….

"I guess you could call it the family business," Chavez said in an interview.

Full story here. The Post says the operation is completely legal, by the way, so I guess the Chavez clan hasn't stepped over the line separating a bad investment from outright mail fraud. As for where exactly that line should be…I'll let you folks debate that in the comments.

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  1. She’s on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.

  2. wingnut welfare

  3. wingnut welfare

    Would you have these wingnuts thrown into the streets? Calloused bastard! Won’t someone please think of the wingnuts?!

  4. Get a job, ya bums!

  5. Could someone please educate this Brit about fund-raising groups in the US; when your donation is solicited by “Democrats Against Tasteless Footware” (say), does the organisation in question have to state what percentage of your money will actually get used for said cause?

  6. DJB,

    Nope, it’s caveat emptor here. I’m pretty sure that if they lied about where the money was going, they could be prosecuted/sued for fraud, but otherwise no.

  7. Could someone please educate this Brit about fund-raising groups in the US; when your donation is solicited by “Democrats Against Tasteless Footware” (say), does the organisation in question have to state what percentage of your money will actually get used for said cause?

    While I don’t know the answer to your question, the best way to help ensure your donation is actually used for Your Cause is to enter into an agreement with the fundraiser. Even these aren’t foolproof, though, as evidenced by recent problems some donors have had with university donations.

  8. Hey! my Stop Union Political Abuse donation was supposed to go directly towards hiring Pinkertons for an old fashioned Union whomping.

    I feel so cheated.

  9. “I guess you could call it the family business,” Chavez said in an interview.

    It would have taken all my self restraint to keep myself from punching her after hearing that.

  10. crimethink:

    Interesting, so as long as *a* percentage goes towards the advertised campaign, you’re in the clear? I wonder at what level that percentage level becomes fraud?

    Moreover, why aren’t more enterprising Americans performing this borderline-scam? Low startup costs and all you need is a list of emails and a divisive issue!

    Come to think of it, what’s to stop me as an enterprising Limey from setting up my own donations-farming company as long as I give, oh I don’t know, 10% towards whatever cause I decide to use as my bait?

  11. DJB,

    You should start a PAC whose stated mission is to stop PAC scams. Put me down for $20.

  12. “I guess you could call it the family business,” Chavez said in an interview.

    Sure, why not? Isn’t that how Vito Corleone described his “olive-oil importation” business?

  13. cgee

    Well, close. I don’t think Chavez is running her competitor PACs’ delivery trucks off the road and torching them yet.

  14. This is such a scam….Gee, I wished that I thought of it.

  15. Interesting, so as long as *a* percentage goes towards the advertised campaign, you’re in the clear? I wonder at what level that percentage level becomes fraud?

    Woman: Here at the Springfield Shopper, we use a percentage of recycled paper.

    Lisa: What percent?

    Woman: Zero. (Pause) What? Zero’s a percent.

  16. Nonprofit corporations are required to submit financial disclosure forms every year. I don’t profess to know all the details, but from those I’m guessing you can separate out the revenues from the operating expenses and get a good idea of what the recipients actually got.

    I’m betting this is how the WashPost got the skinny on the Chavez family business.

    The sad fact is that most nonprofit corporations of all types spend a crazy percentage of their time and money on fundraising. This WashPost article was basically hit piece on conservative-leaning groups, but I’m sure you could find the same crap in left-leaning groups or truly non-political charities.

  17. Get a job, ya bums!

    Does that mean you’re going to give the beggars money? Purely for selfish reasons, of course.

  18. I’ll throw out a word for Charity Navigator when it comes to non-profits. I don’t know if something similar exists for PACs besides the FEC.

    Non-profits in general are amazingly poorly regulated in the US. You can do all kinds of things as an executive of a non-profit that would get you sent to jail in short order at a publicly traded company.

  19. I’ll throw out a word for Charity Navigator when it comes to non-profits. I don’t know if something similar exists for PACs besides the FEC.

    PACs are 501(c)(4) nonprofits, and I know they have to file yearly disclosure forms–do they file Form 990’s, or is that only “nonpartisan” (c)(3) groups? Anyway, I don’t know if there is a clearinghouse for this info, but I believe it’s all online if you dig for it.

  20. This WashPost article was basically hit piece on conservative-leaning groups, but I’m sure you could find the same crap in left-leaning groups or truly non-political charities.

    No doubt about that. Theresa Funicello has done some devastating reporting about Hands Across America, Second Harvest, and similar groups that do/did more to sustain themselves than to improve the lives of the people they’re supposed to help.

  21. Just because they incorporate as non-profits doesn’t mean they can’t make money. They get to choose who the nonprofit does business with. And the corporate officers are “allowed” involvment in other business activities. Think office supplies and janitorial services (for starters). The people running “nonprofit” organizaions for HUD have been playing this game for years.

  22. No doubt about that. Theresa Funicello has done some devastating reporting about Hands Across America, Second Harvest, and similar groups that do/did more to sustain themselves than to improve the lives of the people they’re supposed to help.

    To me, this is a much bigger outrage than how a bunch of political parasites are sucking off the system.

    BTW, I didn’t really want my “hit piece” comment to be taken as the usual conservative “drive-by media” complaint. To me, this sort of abuse is deplorable, and the WashPost piece would be much more effective by showing that the abuse is widespread and not limited to conservative groups.

    Having been in the world of political nonprofits, I’ve seen firsthand some of the shady practices involved. I wonder how Linda Chavez can look her donors straight in the eyes…assuming that she has any donors left after publication of this article.

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