By Thierry Peters
The scams performed by these false charities were certainly built to be difficult to uncover and stay anonymous. The mere fact that most of the public would never suspect charities of wrong-doing kept the issue under wraps until investigative reporting uncovered this disturbing issue. The segment shown on the video clip was definitely designed to bring out anger in the public, and Anderson Cooper’s reactions only furthered that trend. It can be argued that he did this rightfully so.
The Tampa Bay Times used Guidestar to uncover tax returns from these scam charities. But even the investigative reporters were shocked at how fraudulent these charities were operating. It really is shocking to see that only two cents on the dollar are donated by some of these so-called charities, especially when one considers that all the vast majority of the money they receive is from the American public, a public that has been defrauded.
Taking advantage of the American spirit of volunteerism and charity is just wrong, even if it is sometimes legal to form such a non-profit. Escaping taxes through the formation of a non-profit is one thing, but running the entire non-profit off of donations and witnessing charity executives keeping the money for themselves is an entire new category of wrong. How can they not be guilty, when all three charity executives wanted to avoid the camera at all costs?
But there is consolation in the actions being taken by some states against fraudulent charities, as the Tampa Bay Times uncovered. Using public records, the journalists at the newspaper compiled a collection of regulatory actions, currently active, that are aimed at fraudulent charities. Starting a church to squander donations and evade taxes is bad, but defrauding the public by appealing to their charity and feelings is another world of fraud. The fact that is has been going on rather blatantly, and has only now been reported is also somewhat disturbing. At least the TBT has done something about it.
The most difficult part of the entire journalistic process was trying to get firsthand comment from some of the employees of these fraudulent charities. They were too guilty for that. At least the availability of public records helped to uncover these cases of fraud; public records are extremely helpful in many cases.