Ten Law Enforcement Groups Among Worst Charities in America
by Joe Watson
Of America’s 48 worst charities, ten – or just over 20% – are affiliated with law enforcement groups, according to a joint investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).
The benchmark used for selecting the worst charities was the percentage of donations spent on fundraising, salaries and other organizational expenses, compared with the amount spent on programs and services to further their mission.
The list of dubious charities includes the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO (ranked 5th worst); American Association of State Troopers (7th worst); United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (16th worst); and the 20th worst – the Police Protective Fund (PPF), an Austin, Texas-based charity with fundraising call centers in south Florida.
Officials with Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services raided PPF’s call centers on September 17, 2013 and arrested four managers in charge of the operations after determining several felons had been hired as telemarketers. Those arrested included James Paul Williams, Jr., 61, and his son, Jason Robert Williams, 34, a convicted sex offender.
Florida state law bans charities from knowingly hiring fundraisers who have been convicted of fraud and other felonies related to financial crimes. But with subpar vocational training at most prisons, many former offenders are desperate to work in call centers and withhold information about their criminal records.
According to a former PPF telemarketer, however, his co-workers were open about their prior convictions. “It wasn’t a hush-hush thing, but I thought it was weird they were getting people’s credit card numbers,” said James Campanelli, 22, who worked at a PPF call center in Florida for nine months before leaving in July 2011. “It seemed like the people who did real well were the guys that did time.”
The charges against the four PPF managers were later dropped, as the 1999 Florida law prohibiting felons from soliciting on behalf of a charity only applied to “professional fundraising consultants,” not call center employees. State Rep. Jeff Brandes said he intends to introduce legislation to close that loophole.
PPF earned its worst charity ranking, according to the Times and CIR, by spending more than 32% of the $37.7 million it took in over a 10-year period from 2002-2012 on fundraising fees. In contrast, the organization spent only 0.7% of the donations it received on direct cash aid to the families of police officers killed in the line of duty and to promote officer safety – its purported missions.
PPF has been sued by regulatory agencies in at least six states, including California, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, and was fined $463,000. Another law enforcement charity that faced disciplinary action was the American Association of State Troopers, which was fined a total of $321,115 in three states – Georgia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania. And fines of $224,660 were imposed against the United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association in five states.
Other law enforcement organizations included among the nation’s worst charities include Disabled Police Officers of America, Inc. (28th worst); Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation (29th worst); National Police Defense Foundation (30th worst); Reserve Police Officers Association (36th worst); Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center (38th worst); and National Narcotic Officers Associations Coalition (44th worst).
The ten law enforcement groups listed among the worst charities took in a combined $230.8 million from 2002-2012 while paying $163.4 million to solicitors to collect those donations – over 70% of the funds raised. The percentage of money spent by the organizations on direct cash aid ranged from 0% (National Narcotic Officers Associations Coalition) to 8.9% (American Association of State Troopers).
The list of the worst charities in the U.S. was initially released in June 2013, and updated in December 2014.
Sources: www.dailykos.com, www.cironline.org, www.tampabay.com
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