What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 26, 2006

Rick Santorum's "Charity"

If you've heard Jon Delano speak about the current flap over Rick Santorum's financial dealings, you've heard him admit that he's more interested in the workings of Ricky's PAC than with the details of his mortgage.

In that vein, here's something I found from a newspaper on the other side of the state. Seems that our junior senator hasn't been too generous with the funds from a charity he founded. Here's the opening of the article:
Sen. Rick Santorum's charity donated about 40 percent of the $1.25 million it spent during a four-year period - well below Better Business Bureau standards - paying out the rest for overhead, including several hundred thousand dollars to campaign aides on the charity payroll, records show.

The charity, Operation Good Neighbor, provides grants to small nonprofit groups, many of them religious.

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance says charitable organizations should spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on program activities.
Here's the website for "Operation Good Neighbor."

Out of fairness, it should be noted that the charity has already responded to the charges raised by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Here's Barbara W. Bonfiglio, treasurer of the charity.
In recent days, Operation Good Neighbor Foundation has come under scrutiny, and we welcome the opportunity to highlight the good work the Foundation does to serve those less fortunate. From 2001 to 2005, over 45% of the money raised goes directly for gifts or is in the bank for future gifts. It is important to realize that the Foundation does not have the same ability as better-known charities, such as the Salvation Army or American Red Cross, to raise money without spending much money to do so. Fundraising expenses are close to 37% of expenditures, as these fundraising events are recreational outings such as golf tournaments, and overhead is approximately 18%. The Foundation is pleased to distribute these awards to worthy social service organizations that might not otherwise get such contributions. Furthermore, during an IRS audit obligation, the Foundation learned of the Pennsylvania registration requirement, and is proceeding to meet that obligation.
The Philly paper says that 60% is overhead. Ms Bonfiglio says that 56% is "expenditures" and "overhead." So depending on how you define "overhead," it looks like we're quibbling over a difference of 4%. 4% of 1.25 million is what, $50,000? Is my math right here? Am I missing something?

The curious thing about all this is that Ms Bonfiglio works for Williams and Jensen, one of the top lobbying firms in DC. The address for the firm is listed on the website:

1155 21st Street, NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

If you google the address and add a "PAC" to it, you'll find (among other things) that these PACs are also run out of the same address:

Americans for a Republican Majority
Republican Majority Fund
America's Foundation

According to the wikipedia, Americans for a Republican Majority was formed by none other than Tom DeLay. Here's the FEC info for it. It should be noted that Ms Bonfilgio's name HAS NOT connected to ARMPAC in anyway as far as I can tell. And so I don't want it to appear that I am linking the two other than pointing out that she works for the firm that has an address linked to the bugman's PAC.

Ms Bonfiglio IS listed as the treasurer of the Republican Majority Fund, however. FEC info is here.

Now take a look at that last one. Ms Bonfiglio is also the treasurer for that PAC as well. Here's the FEC disclosure form for it. Curiously, this is the same PAC that received the 24K from the bank that gave Santorum that mortage for his house. It's also the same PAC that paid for all those trips to Starbucks. Here's what the American Prospect says about America's Foundation:
According to one expert, Santorum appears to reap personal benefits from America’s Foundation, the so-called leadership PAC controlled by Santorum, which has raised some $5 million from wealthy donors and business PACs over the last five years. The stated purpose of America’s Foundation is to support other GOP candidates, but the Prospect found that the committee spends considerably less on direct candidate aid than comparable PACs, and considerably more on operating expenses -- declaring hundreds of small- to medium-sized meals and purchases by Santorum or his political staff to be “campaign-related.”
Hmmm...sound familiar?

Rick Santorum - he knows the right people.

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Patrick said...

Nice work on this issue.

The GOP's use of "charities" as fronts for their political activities is the dirty little secret that no one in the media will look at - it takes too much legwork and actual reporting, I guess.

Most big time Republicans have "charities" that they strongly encourage corporations and big donors to contribute to - often members of committees that oversee particular types of economic activity will be associated with charities that receive huge donations from businesses regulated by these very same legislators and their committees.

Another thing that doesn't get a lot of attention is the number of GOP political hacks that go in and out of the "non-profit" sector between election cycles - usually to these so-called charities that are tied to big time GOP donors.

See, Democrats are evil when we give a politically active Democrat a job in the city or county government, but the GOP is not evil when they pad the payroll of tax exempt charities with political hacks - the same charities whose donors receive a tax deduction for giving, and who are essentially subsidised by the government giving up tax revenue because of the deduction.

Shawn said...

C is for Crony, which is good enough me...

...pardon the digression. :)