Charity Scams Make the Case for “Socialism”

The argument sounds reasonable enough: It’s my money and I’ll give it to the needy if I want, but the government has no right to take it from me and give it to them.

After all, this is the land of the free, isn’t it?

And then we learn what happens to so much of the money collected for “charity.”

In an article distributed by Reader Supported News today, Carl Hiaasen writes about one “charitable” group:

The organization had presented itself as a charity called Allied Veterans of the World, and had tax-exempt, nonprofit status. Under a typically porous Florida law, it was allowed to operate Internet “sweepstakes cafes” as long as the earnings were donated to charitable causes.

Over three years, Allied Veterans raked in hundreds of millions of dollars, but only 2 percent found its way to veterans’ groups. The rest of the money went to sleazeballs who bought fancy cars, boats and big houses.

Law enforcement officials have arrested 57 people in connection with the $300 million operation. Four of them – attorney Kelly Mathis, 49, of Jacksonville, organization chairman Jerry Bass, 62, of Jacksonville, Johnny Duncan, 62 of Boiling Springs, S.C., and Chase Burns, 37, of Fort Cobb, Oklahoma – allegedly received more than $90 million from the “charity.”

Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, a 53-year-old Trinidadian-born Floridian, resigned suddenly last week after federal and state agents began rounding up suspects in the alleged front for illegal gambling, racketeering and money laundering.

She has not been charged but Hiaasen’s article leaves a cloud over her name. He reports that:

Carroll, who so far hasn’t been charged with a crime, owned a public relations company that represented Allied Veterans while she was in the state House of Representatives. Later, as lieutenant governor, she taped a glowing advertisement for the organization.

Apparently, Carroll was not the only politician to feed at the charity’s trough. Hiassen quotes state investigators as saying Allied Veterans donated about $2 million to state and local political campaigns, and spent $740,000 lobbying in Tallahassee.

OK, I know what you’re thinking:  One bad apple doesn’t indict an entire barrel of apples. Singling out one bogus charity doesn’t prove anything about the others. But I’m sure you know that scandals involving charities are not rare.

As editor of the Clearwater Sun, I was tipped off about excessive salaries and perks that the heads of local charities were getting, and I tried to expose the scandalous situation. But an impenetrable wall of “confidentiality” proved too much for our reporters. Still, from time to time, some member of the media breaks through and some charity’s abusive “administrative” costs are revealed.

I read recently that much of the money collected never reached victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. According to the report, billions of dollars were spent on “foreign experts, consultants, advisors, mission trips, fancy hotels, restaurants, housing for foreign organization members and workers and brand new SUVs parading throughout the streets of Port-au-Prince with one driver and one passenger making the traffic even more chaotic than before.”

And I read just this week about a political SuperPAC that collected millions to defeat President Obama and kept most of it for themselves. I know this wasn’t a charity scam but it tells me something about the trustworthiness of those groups that are always begging for donations on the Internet. Indeed, it tells me something about human nature and the folly of depending on private groups to do society’s work.

I am confident there’s ample evidence to support the argument that government programs benefit the needy far more than private charities. So the next time you hear someone ranting against “Socialism” you might want to suggest they consider the alternative.

Photo at left shows former Lieutenant Governor Carroll. Photo at right shows some of the suspects – (left to right): Nelson Cuba, Robbie Freitas, Jerry Bass, Mike Davis and Kelly Mathis.

Click here for Hiaasen’s article.

Click here for more on Jennifer Carroll.

Click here for the conservative fund raising scam.

Click here to read about those donations to Haiti.