December 05, 2003
DeLay's sham charity attacked

You may recall Tom DeLay's new "charity", Celebrations for Children, which was set up with the dual purpose of raising funds for children and Republicans and which has been roundly criticized as a sham and a campaign-finance law dodge. Now two of the harsher critics have asked the IRS to investigate.

Two campaign finance watchdog groups complained to the Internal Revenue Service yesterday that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is using a tax-exempt charity as "a scheme . . . to allow him to raise and spend unlimited 'soft money' funds for political activities" during the Republican convention next summer in New York.

DeLay plans to hold a series of convention-week fundraising events for Celebrations for Children Inc., a charity for abused and neglected children. A 13-page brochure describes the benefits that donors would receive depending on the size of their gifts to the group.

For a donor in the $500,000 "Upper East Side" category, for example, benefits include being named a sponsor at private dinners with DeLay before and after the convention and at other events, the opportunity to bring nine friends to a special golf tournament, 12 tickets to a Broadway show, 25 tickets to "the Members reception before/during/after Presidential acceptance speech" and a private yacht cruise "w/TD" [with Tom DeLay].

The complaint by Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center alleged that "DeLay, Republican officeholders and candidates and Republican party officials will receive systematic opportunities to meet and network with wealthy individuals, corporate officials, lobbyists and other donors in an inherently partisan political environment. . . . They will also have opportunities to solicit contributions from these donors for the 2004 elections."

"Representative DeLay is using the nation's charity tax laws and the pretext of helping children as a cynical cover," said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, one of the two complainants.

Glen Shor, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center, said: "The IRS must not allow the tax exemption for charities to serve as a shelter for a political operation."

You can find the complaint and a bunch of background on this here on Democracy 21's website. The Campaign Legal Center's piece is here. Both also have a link to a copy of the CfC brochure for your perusal.

An item in the wire report of this story puzzles me a bit.

The goal is for 75 percent of the money raised by the convention events to go to the children's charity, says Craig Richardson, executive director of the group created by DeLay. A number of mainstream charities spend less than that for programs.

So does that last sentence mean that mainstream charities have lower overhead and thus can give more than 75% of their proceeds to their stated purpose, or vice versa? I believe it's the former, since CfC has some obviously big expenses (though I'd be willing to bet its staff gets their salaries from other groups), but I don't think it's very clear from that.

The point to remember when reading these stories is this: The reason for this venture, besides being another avenue for big-money donors to evade McCain-Feingold, is to let those big donors give their boodle secretly. That's the hallmark of everything DeLay does. There's no other reason to marry charitable giving with political giving. DeLay does do real charitable work on behalf of abused children, in the original sense of the word "charity" where one's time and effort is its own reward. This is a Potemkin charity, and I hope the IRS sees it that way.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 05, 2003 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

It's the latter.

While this isn't big league charity, it isn't unheard of for groups such as the Police type groups which call you to spend 75-85% of their income for fund raising.

Posted by: Charles M on December 5, 2003 11:25 PM

The CFC booklet descriptions of the charities combined in its campaign indicates the percentage of that particular charity's income that goes for expenses, so givers can know if their contributions will go for true aid or fund-raising. Most of the charities (maybe it's just the ones I look for, but I think it's across the board) have a percentage of less than 20%, so 25% is slightly high.

But these charities are at least reporting that that 20% goes for fund-raising, not politicking, graft and payoffs.


Posted by: Ed Drone on December 11, 2003 10:33 AM

Someone is pissing in the wind on this one. Being from Texas, I know for a fact, and beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mr. DeLay is giving all that money to childrens charities. This is just another Liberal lying trumped up bunch of garbage.
Why not get into some of the Liberals backgrounds and find out what they're doing that's illeagle,,, like taking CAMPEIGN CONTRIBUTIONS for Foreign Countries and trying to turn U.S. sovernity over to the Disfunctional United Nations,,,,, or is that to difficult !!!!

Posted by: Horatio on March 25, 2004 1:39 PM