Move America Forward, a right-leaning charity that claimed to send care packages to United States Marines in Afghanistan, has been exposed as a fraudulent operation dedicated to pumping millions of dollars into a Tea Party loyalists’ account.
That’s right; a Tea Party group has been scamming the American People, under the guise of “defend our troops.”
On Tuesday, the Daily Beast printed their investigative piece on the charity. The group, who count a number of key George W. Bush administration officials among its supporters, repeatedly mislead donors about where the money was going and how much money that it had raised. Founded in 2005, the group bills itself as the “largest grassroots pro-troop organization.” It was also one of the largest unregulated funding pipelines for the group’s founder, Sal Russo.
Barker, writing for the Daily Beast, said:
Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.
In several instances, the charity has taken images and stories from other groups and from veterans themselves without permission to use in fundraising appeals.
Last year, Move America Forward even solicited funds by claiming a partnership with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the largest hospital for wounded service members in the country. No such partnership existed, Defense Department officials say.
The charity’s funds and other assets also appear to have been used to subsidize three conservative political action committees, records show.
Charity watchdogs have long criticized Move America Forward for spending too much on administrative fees and having little outside oversight. For instance, it earned zero stars out of a potential four from the rating organization Charity Navigator.
But experts on campaign finance and taxation say Move America Forward’s practices may trigger more than bad ratings. Its activities could violate tax rules, which prohibit charities from engaging in partisan politics or overly benefiting the people who run them.
The group claimed that it was sending packages to the 1st Marine Division battalion to aid their fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The battalion, known as Geronimo battalion, was nowhere near Afghanistan during the fund drive, however; rather, they were stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
Despite this, the group reported that the drive had been a success, and that all of the Marines in the battalion received their care packages and personalized notes.
Tax experts, meanwhile, say that the group has funneled millions of dollars to Tea Party groups, and to California Republican Businessman Sal Russo, who founded Move America Forward, The Tea Party Express, and a raft of other conservative consultant political groups:
Charities like Move America Forward, which accept tax-deductible donations, are not allowed to engage in partisan politics like other nonprofits, such as trade associations and social-welfare groups. Charities are also not allowed to pay excessive fees or wages to staffers or consultants, according to federal tax rules.
But an examination of Move America Forward’s tax returns shows that it is deeply intertwined with Russo’s political enterprises and businesses, paying millions of dollars to him and his consulting firm.
According to its five most recent tax returns, Move America Forward paid out more than $2.3 million to Russo or Russo, Marsh and Associates for services including “program management and advertising.” That’s about 30 percent of the charity’s overall expenditures over that time.
“It was just so shady,” said Kelly S. Eustis, a former consultant for the Tea Party Express, also known as Our Country Deserves Better. “With PACs, I know it’s dirty money–it’s politics. But this is a charity that’s supposed to be helping the troops.”
Move America Forward’s sponsors include The San Fran 49s, Breitbart media, firearms manufacturers, and Cumulus Radio; the group holds an annual “Troopathon,” that simulcasts on the internet and features:
[L]ive and taped appearances by conservative stars from entertainment, media and politics, including actor Gary Sinise, rock idol Gene Simmons of KISS, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. The charity counts all the money raised in the month of the broadcast as part of Troopathon.” The 2014 Troopathon was held on June 25 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
As if that weren’t enough, Move America Forward hijacked images, veterans’ stories, and accounts of successful deliveries of supplies to United States troops from other charities, reprinting these charities on their own promotional materials and website to give themselves a sheen of legitimacy.
Move America Forward has also used images from the websites of AdoptAPlatoon and Operation Gratitude, two charities that send care packages regularly to troops, to solicit donations.
Carolyn Blashek, the founder of Operation Gratitude, confirmed to ProPublica that two photographs used in fundraising emails by Move America Forward actually depicted soldiers with packages sent by Operation Gratitude. Blashek emailed ProPublica originals of one of the photographs, as well as others of the same soldiers, to prove it.
“I’m livid, I’m so livid,” she said. “I’m shocked…It’s so beyond wrong.”
Ida Hagg, AdoptAPlatoon’s executive director, said she instantly recognized a photograph in which soldiers held up placards spelling out “Thank You,” because it was sent to AdoptAPlatoon. AdoptAPlatoon asked the soldiers’ permission to use the photograph on its website, Hagg said.
“I’m a little taken aback,” Hagg said after seeing the Move America Forward email using that photograph. “Oh my gosh. …That is definitely our photo, absolutely our photo.”
You can read the whole takedown here.
It just goes to show how much the Tea Party actually cares about our troops, doesn’t it?
h/t: Raw Story