HOW TO “NO COMMENT” A PUBLIC COMMENT

Our readers will recall that VoxFairfax reported previously regarding the fundraising activities of two Falls Church not-for-profit organizations—The Center for Homeless American Veterans [CHAV] and the Circle of Friends of American Veterans [COFAV]—following public disclosure that the two were under investigation by both the Virginia and New York State Attorneys General.

The questionable activity is not limited to New York and Virginia, as we disclosed on April 27 [https://voxfairfax.com/2018/04/27/falls-church-veterans-organizations-under-investigation/]; the professional fundraising organization [PFRO] used by the Falls Church entities had in the past been fined by the attorneys general of two other states, South Carolina and Iowa, further clouding the activities of the Virginia-based operations.

One common criticism of the use of professional fundraising organizations is that their contracts with charities often permit the PFRO to retain as much as 90% of the funds raised. While charity watchdog organizations often suggest that a 25% retention cost may be reasonable, many, if not most, states have no such provision limiting the ratio of sharing.

Some observers might argue that such statutory limits violate the First Amendment freedom of speech, but others insist that, as a matter of public policy where charities are exempt from income taxation, this creates a basis upon which a state may exercise some regulatory authority, especially in the interest of consumers as donors. In addition, one of the Falls Church operations is a 501(c)(4) organization, for which contributions are not tax-deductible, opening the potential that donors are making tax deductions to which they are not entitled.

We also have information leading to the belief that, despite the two AG investigations, fundraising by the veterans organizations continues leaving consumers open to their questionable activities. Once again, perhaps incredibly, we could not identify a statute empowering authority to effect any interim consumer protection such as a “cease and desist” order or injunction. This naturally raises the question as to what information is required by investigating agencies upon which to take some action.

VoxFairfax has placed telephone calls and sent emails to the Virginia and New York AG offices, inquiring as to the status of the announced investigations, which brings us to the title of this piece. No Comment on the public comment previously announced. No Comment on which deputy AG has responsibility for investigation into charities.

One of the emails sent by VoxFarfax to the AG indicated that we had discovered some information that might be helpful to the Virginia AG. This prompted a call several weeks later from an attorney in the AG’s office requesting the information; we, as good citizens, cooperated. That individual also said No Comment on the question of the existence of an investigation. One wonders why the inquiry then. But VoxFairfax has a policy of not commenting upon a pending journalistic inquiry into stories about which we have reported on previous occasions.

To make matters worse, a call to The Center for Homeless American Veterans on June 4, 2018, confirmed that fundraising by one of its “partners” was continuing. It is clear that, despite two state investigations, consumers remain targets of the organizations.   

The essential issues for all are protection from such questionable activities and the public’s right to be informed about investigations. By the way, there appears to be no statute requiring the AG to announce publicly the termination of an investigation. So, the matter may be quietly buried without public knowledge. We have no comment on this.



Categories: Issues, Local, National, State

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