Tag Archives: charities

Did Trump donate $20M to St. Jude’s? (Probably not)

The Washington Post has a story questioning the claim, made by a Donald Trump supporter at a rally last October, that the billionaire mogul gave $20 million to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

The report, published also in today’s Commercial Appeal, notes that the declaration brought loud cheers from the rally crowd and a “Thank you” from Trump, who subsequently – but indirectly – appeared to imply the claim was true.

The gist of the Post’s look into the matter: There’s no evidence Trump ever gave anything close to that amount to the charity. But a foundation headed by his son, Eric Trump, apparently has committed to raising that amount for the hospital.

Legislators chipping in to ‘Hunters for the Hungry’ program

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation reports growing success in efforts to have state legislators donate from their campaign funds to a program for providing venison to the needy.

The “Hunters for the Hungry” program, affiliated with the federation since 1998, involves deer hunters donating a slain animal to groups that provide food to organizations serving the hungry, such as Second Harvest Food Bank in Knoxville.

Hunters for the Hungry has recruited 83 meat processors statewide to convert the deer carcasses into frozen venison at a reduced processing price, typically about $40 per deer, according to the foundation’s executive director, Mike Butler.

To cover that cost, Hunters for the Hungry solicits charitable donations. The “legislative challenge” to seek funding from politicians had its origins three years ago when state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, embraced and promoted the program as chairman of the Legislature’s Nutrition Caucus, Butler said. More recently, state Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, have played leadership roles, he said. Continue reading

TN cancer charities face $75M fraud penalty

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two Tennessee-based cancer charities labeled “shams” by the Federal Trade Commission have settled a massive fraud case, along with their president, by agreeing to a $75.8 million judgment and the dissolution of the businesses. But the government may never see much of that money.

The complaint filed last year accused James T. Reynolds Sr. and others of spending donations meant for cancer patients on six-figure salaries and luxury vacations. The FTC said it is the largest joint action ever undertaken by the FTC and state charity regulators.

FTC attorney Tracy Thorleifson said the agency does not yet know how much money the government will recover, but she said it “won’t even be close” to the judgment, which reflects the amount of money the public donated to Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services between 2008 and 2012.

According to court documents, Reynolds went on a spending spree after he was first advised of the complaint.

“Not only did he sell his house in the fall of 2014, in the months since he has run up tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt and spent almost all his available cash. He has been on multiple cruises and traveled nationally and internationally, always paying the way for himself and companions. Cash withdrawals from his checking accounts and credit card purchases since January 2015 have exceeded $101,000, not including payments for rent, utilities, insurance, automobiles, boats, or tithes to religious institutions,” court documents state.
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Charity bin enforcement binge launched under new law

Excerpt from a WPLN report:
The agency that oversees Tennessee charities is getting serious about the donation bins often found in grocery store parking lots after inspectors spent four months scrutinizing the drop-off sites and found hundreds of non-compliant bins.

Since July, a new state law requires bins to be cleared every two weeks and to be accurately labeled.

Now the grace period ends and inspectors will begin handing out fines up to $5,000.

The state estimates as many as 600 bins aren’t properly labeled, out of roughly 2,500 statewide. And some sketchy companies have been dodging inspectors, according to the Secretary of State’s office. In one case, in Chattanooga, a company never responded to calls or mailings, ultimately leading inspectors to tape notices about the law change onto their bins.

News release from Secretary of State’s office:
Nashville, Tennessee – (November 2, 2015) – The Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming has been working with organizations throughout Tennessee for the last three months to ensure they are in compliance with a new section of the Charitable Solicitations Act that went into effect July 1.

Beginning November 2, companies operating any collection receptacle, including donation bins, shipping containers or trailers, must either have proper labeling or remove the receptacle until it is in compliance. Organizations that fail to follow the statute will face civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation or an injunction to cease operation. The division sent out letters about this deadline last month.

Many organizations are following the new law, but some continue to not be in compliance. One bin operator left the state because of the statute, while a handful of others claim they are in the process of leaving.
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Lawsuit filed alleging massive fraud by four cancer charities

From the News Sentinel:

Telemarketers told donors all over the country their gifts to a Knoxville-based charity would provide pain medication to children suffering from cancer, help transport patients to chemotherapy appointments and pay for hospice care for those dying of the disease.

Instead, a pittance of the $187 million raised by the Cancer Fund of America and its affiliated nonprofits over five years went to patient care packages made up of sample-size soaps, Little Debbie snack cakes, Carnation Instant Breakfast drinks, plastic cutlery, women’s makeup, iPod Nano covers, blank seasonal greeting cards and batteries.

The rest of the money raised — more than 87 cents of every dollar — went to pay the telemarketing companies that solicited the donations and to fund salaries, lavish trips and personal loans for founder James T. Reynolds Sr., his family and his employees.

They bought meals at Hooters, items from Victoria’s Secret and tickets for concerts and sporting events. Employees received gym memberships, dating website subscriptions and college tuition.

The nonprofit paid for board members and employees to take extravagant “training” trips on Carnival Cruises in the Caribbean and at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The charity even paid for a baby sitter to come along.

That’s according to the Federal Trade Commission and agencies in all 50 states, all of which filed a joint lawsuit Monday against the four “sham charities” and the people who run them. Each is accused of eight counts of fraud, misleading state charity regulators and violating telemarketing rules.

The government negotiated settlements totaling more than $200 million with two of the charities and three individuals — Reynolds’ ex-wife, his son and a close business associate of Reynolds.

But the case against Reynolds, the family patriarch who founded the Cancer Fund and originated its wide-reaching scheme in 1987, remains unresolved and will likely play out in court, said Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett. Reynolds said Monday that his charity has been under federal investigation for more than four years.

Note: News release below.
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Bill would bring back bingo for ‘nonpublic schools’

Bingo games to benefit charitable causes, explicitly banned in Tennessee after the 1980s “Rocky Top” state government corruption scandal, could return on a limited basis under legislation approved by a Senate committee.

“There’s nothing inherently evil about bingo,” Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, told the Senate State and Local Government Committee, adding those involved in the FBI investigation that led to more than 50 convictions “could have got into the same trouble” with “reverse lotteries or raffles.”

In the 1970s, Tennessee’s Legislature legalized bingo gambling for charity fundraising. The FBI probe found that many of the charities were bogus fronts for organized gambling activities and state enforcement officials — working under the Secretary of State’s office — had taken bribes and were otherwise actively involved with the gambling.

Secretary of State Gentry Crowell committed suicide in 1989 just before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury, which was widely expected to indict him.

The ban on bingo followed and continued even after lotteries were legalized following passage of a state constitutional amendment in 2002. In addition to authorizing a state-run lottery, current law allows charitable organizations to hold an annual event — each approved by the Legislature — that involves some types of gambling for fundraising. But bingo is still explicitly prohibited.

Senate Bill 349 would authorize “nonpublic schools” with IRS 501(c)3 charity status to hold an annual bingo gambling event to raise money, just as they could now for raffles, cakewalks and the like. Niceley said Heritage Christian Academy of Claiborne County asked him to sponsor the bill. Rep. John Holsclaw, R-Elizabethton, is House sponsor.
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Six of Sen. Howard Baker Jr.’s cars sold for $285K at auction to benefit UT’s Baker Center

Six antique cars in the estate of Howard H. Baker Jr. brought $285,500 at an auction for the Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee named for the former U.S. senator, U.S. ambassador and presidential chief of staff on Saturday, reports Georgiana Vines.

Jerry Eastman of Knoxville bought two cars totaling $100,000 — a 1962 Ford Galaxie and a 1937 Cord Custom Beverly, which was the last car Baker purchased.

An out-of-state bidder, Myron Schuster of New York, was the successful bidder at $85,000, which was the most for a single car. He bought a 1951 Hudson Hornet Convertible, which Baker had restored in 2007.

The proceeds were a little less than what auctioneers earlier estimated would be raised, but Baker’s former associates said they were pleased.

Fred Marcum, his longtime spokesman, said for a rainy day, “I think it’s OK.”

Note: The item is one part of a Vines’ column. One of her articles prior to the auction, HERE, has more details.

Chattanooga police dogs get bulletproof vests

Inspired by the shooting death of a Walker County, Ga., sheriff’s department dog, a charity known as inVEST in K9 is providing funding for protection of police dogs with bulletproof vests and all 10 Chattanooga dogs are now covered, reports the Times-Free Press. Robin Scott is founder of the group.

On Tuesday she gave a $985 vest to Yubee, a police dog still in training, so the dog would have the vest before it encounters danger. At least five more vests will be available for incoming police dogs.

Scott, who was raised by a police officer, has spearheaded efforts to provide bullet/knife-resistant vests for police dogs since 2013. She hopes to provide all law enforcement dogs in the state with vests.

She partnered with the Regional Institute for Veterinary Emergencies & Referrals (RIVER) clinic on Amnicola Highway to get the vests.

…Chattanooga Police Master Patrolman Sean O’Brien said he is grateful for the public’s support for K-9 cops.

“I am humbled by the people willing to put the time and effort to provide us with these vests,” said O’Brien, who is working with Yubee, a Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd mix.

He said the police department has no budget for K-9 bulletproof vests after paying the thousands of dollars it costs to train the dogs. Training takes about 10 to 12 weeks to train a dog for a single purpose and about twice as long for a dual purpose, O’Brien said.

Of the 10 Chattanooga Police Department K-9s four are trained as dual-purpose dogs. Three are single-purpose bomb dogs and three are single-purpose drug dogs, he said.

State fines charitable organization $45K for making false claims

News release from Tennessee Secretary of State’s office:
A civil penalty of $45,000 has been imposed against NSPIRE Outreach, a Georgia-based organization also known as Hope House or Hope for Domestic Violence, for soliciting contributions using false or misleading practices.

Specifically, the group has falsely represented that it works with other organizations with which it has no affiliation. Additionally, numerous individuals have filed complaints with the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming because they continued to receive calls requesting donations even after requesting to be removed from the group’s call list.

“It’s very important for charitable organizations not to misrepresent themselves when dealing with potential donors,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “They should be who they say they are and deliver the services they promise to deliver. Also, if people request that they not receive further solicitations, those requests should be honored.”

Brent Culberson, director of the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming in the Secretary of State’s office, informed Gregg Kennard, executive director of NSPIRE, of the penalty via a letter.

The Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming oversees enforcement of the Tennessee Charitable Solicitations Act. If you learn about solicitations that seem false or misleading or have concerns about the solicitation practices of a nonprofit, contact the office at (615) 741-2555 or 1-800-861-7393.

No more Ladies Hermitage Association

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The nonprofit that runs Andrew Jackson’s historic home, The Hermitage, is getting a new name and adding prominent national figures to its board of directors.

The group that for 125 years has been called the Ladies’ Hermitage Association will now be the Andrew Jackson Foundation.

New board members include Jon Meacham, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Jackson biography “American Lion.”

The changes are part of a multiyear plan to refocus attention on America’s seventh president, his relevance to the 21st century, and his historic home on the outskirts of Nashville.

Meacham said in a news release that Jackson is one of America’s most important and least understood presidents. He says he is looking forward to being part of the effort to “conduct a new national discussion on Jackson.”