Trump Could Face Charges for His Falsified Donations

Trump Could Face Charges for His Falsified Donations

Jun 28

Photo credit: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com Lying about charity isn’t an ethical or nice thing to do. Saying that you’ve donated money to a cause, when you really haven’t, might sound like a little white lie, but the act of donating is seen as a social good. It’s something that people can look at and judge you as a good member of society. It’s great if it’s true, but if you’re lying about your charitable works, then you’re gaining good press for something you never did, which is unethical at the very least. It may also be illegal in some cases. Donald Trump has appeared in the press numerous times over the course of this bid for the 2016 presidential election precisely because its become apparent that he isn’t honest about his donations. He has routinely claimed that he would donate the proceeds from various products, like his recent book, “university,” or vodk to charity. But it keeps coming back that those claims aren’t true, and that money isn’t going to charity. He’s just been using the promise of donations to entice people to buy his products. So a number of experts have been trying to get New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann to press charges against Trump for deceptive business practices. The Attorney General has not moved on these accusations, nor commented on whether he will, but the office is aware of the allegations. It certainly seems like a valuable use of the Attorney General’s time. Fraud is fraud, regardless of who commits it, and it’s obvious that Trump has lied, time and time again, about his “charitable work.” But he hasn’t just used these lies to build his image as he has also used them to trick people into buying his products, and that’s not something we should let...

Playing Zelda for Charity: Zeldathon

Playing Zelda for Charity: Zeldathon

Jun 23

Marathons are a common event in the charity world, with people signing up to run or pledging money to support friends and family who are running. But not everybody can, or wants, to run, and some people don’t really pay attention to charity marathons. For some of those people though, there are video game marathons. The basic principle is the same: people do a thing for an absurdly long time while others watch them. In these cases, they play a video game, or series of video games, for some length of time while others watch them. Social video services like Twitch.TV allow people to tune in from around the world. There are lots of events like this, and most of them use the platform to raise money for charity. A lot of different charities benefit, like Direct Relief, which is the recipient of funds raised at this year’s first Zeldathon. Zeldathon is held multiple times each year, and started back in 2009. It’s a pretty simple concept: players go through the entire Zelda franchise, periodically putting on silly costumes or eating weird foods because people donated a certain amount of money. Paying to embarrass players is pretty common in these kinds of marathons. But it’s effective. Since 2009, Zeldathon has donated 100% of the $875,000 they’ve raised to various charities, which is no small number. This time it’s Direct Relief, which works around the country and the world to help alleviate poverty, and has earned a perfect score from Charity Navigator, no small task. If you’re interested in watching the action, you can check out the Zeldathon website for more information. If you miss it, don’t worry, there’s probably another charity gaming marathon coming up any time...

Turn Your Gardening Hobby into a Charity

Turn Your Gardening Hobby into a Charity

Jun 14

Image: Shutterstock For gardeners with a charitable streak, donating part of your harvest to charity can turn your hobby into helping others. According to Plant a Row, a nonprofit dedicated to this exact idea, about 84 million households in the United States have yards or gardens. They maintain that if each of those gardens simply added another row of vegetables or the like and then donated that yield, it could take a pretty big bite out of hunger. About 50 million people, almost the population of California, suffer from food insecurity, and rely on food banks or other organizations for help, when they can get it. But those organizations don’t always have enough food to go around, and fresh produce can be especially hard to keep on hand. Fresh fruit and vegetables are important to human health, but are all to often neglected or out of people’s price range. Local gardeners can help change that though. There are a lot of ways that this idea can be put into practice. Home gardens are the obvious choice, but community gardens built with charity in mind are a wonderful idea as well. Not only do such gardens generate food, but they create green spaces and provide exercise and recreation for people in the community. Schools often undertake gardening projects, and those are a perfect opportunity to not only teach kids about biology, but to help instill a charitable tendency as well. And charitable gardens don’t require much more work than normal gardens either. Crops like leaf lettuce, onions, or carrots are easy to grow, hardy, and should have no problem finding a good home. Get in touch with local food banks, or organizations like Plant a Row or Feeding America to see how you can help out, and if you can’t find a local organization to contribute to, why not start your...

The Billionaires to Donations Ratio in China is Skewed

The Billionaires to Donations Ratio in China is Skewed

Jun 07

The number of billionaires in the People’s Republic of China has increased significantly in the last decade or so, but their charitable giving has not kept pace. In 2015, China saw a rise in the billionaire population of 38%, with a net worth of $830 billion, meaning that country has the second largest number of billionaires after the United States. But the United States far outpaces China in charitable giving. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most significant is a lack of transparency on the part of charitable organizations. In recent years, there have been a number of scandals involving charities in China, especially as pertains to the use of funds, which has made many people cautious. The government has stepped in to address the situation, but as is common in China, that has largely been to restrict who can claim charity status, and what they can focus their mission on. The result is that many charities are now beholden to the government. Some billionaires, a class that has only recently come into being in the nominally communist country, are reasonably cautious about how the government perceives them, and so they must choose their donations very carefully. But there also aren’t many tax incentives for donating in China. Here in the United States, although many people donate out of the kindness of their hearts, there are a number of tax benefits that companies can claim by donating to charity, and they make sure to do that. Regardless of why a person, or a company, donates to charity, the end result is still a donation. While the number of charitable organizations in China has increased in the last few years, up to 4,211 as of 2015, giving to those organizations is still slow. The Chinese government does seem to be interested in finding ways to get people to support select charitable causes though, so this may change over the next few...

Trump Finally Gives Away the Money He “Donated” In January

Trump Finally Gives Away the Money He “Donated” In January

Jun 03

Photo credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com Back in January, instead of attending a debate, Donald Trump held a fundraiser for veterans’ charities. Supposedly, it raised about $6 dollars, with Trump having donated $1 million himself, though until very recently, most of that money had yet to be given to any charities. Trump’s campaign manager claimed that the money the Republican candidate donated had already been withdrawn and distributed, and that the process would be complete by Memorial Day, but Trump himself has said that he doesn’t know how his campaign manager would know that. Instead, he finally did donate $1 million on May 23rd, to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which helps children of fallen marines and law enforcement officers. According to Trump, it took so long because “you have a lot of vetting to do” when you donate. That’s actually good advice, and something that donors and nonprofit groups know well, except it doesn’t mesh with the fact that the Donald J. Trump Foundation already donated over $230,000 to that group. So did the Foundation not do a good enough job of vetting them, or is that just an excuse Trump made to avoid admitting that he never planned on actually donating any money in the first place? The whole issue seems like just another example of Trump grasping for publicity. It’s become clear in the last few months that he is not a generous man, and that most of the “donations” he has made over the years weren’t really donations in the first place, but instead free golf games and the like. It’s good that a charity finally did get the money Trump pledged, four months later, but some of that money is still unaccounted for, which is pretty amazing considering just how long four months is, and that he already has a foundation, named after him, which could have handled the actual donations in a few days or...

New Bill Would Make Investigating Charity Fraud More Difficult

New Bill Would Make Investigating Charity Fraud More Difficult

Jun 01

A bill introduced to the House of Representatives and awaiting a vote would make “dark money” untraceable, which poses some risks to charity fraud investigations. “Dark money” refers to anonymous donations to nonprofits, usually politically active groups, that allow wealthy people to donate money without attracting attention to themselves. It’s become a huge issue in politics of late, especially since the Citizens United victory in 2010 that allowed for unlimited spending by corporations and other entities on political campaigns. This presidential election season is already gearing up to cost more than twice the 2012 race. The bill would eliminate an IRS mandated donor-disclosure requirement, meaning that groups wouldn’t have to say who gave them money. Supporters say this protects the First Amendment rights of donors and protects them from political pressure and the like. Meanwhile, opponents say that it would make it difficult for fraud investigations to determine who donated to charities and whether or not there are conflicts of interest there. It would also prevent them from determining if charities moved funds between one another. Charity fraud is a serious issue, and although it doesn’t happen all that often, only about 1% of annual giving is affected, it’s still something that needs to be investigated. Especially since when it does come to light, it tends to get a lot of press and damage the nonprofit sector’s image. Adding fuel to opponents’ arguments against the bill are the supporters themselves, most notable Citizens United and the Koch Brothers. If you’ve been following politics for the last decade, especially campaign finance, then you know that these groups have never had the best interest of American’s at heart, but only those of billionaires and corporations. This bill is simply another attempt to increase their own power, while denying the government the ability to keep them in check, and this time it’ll make fraud...

Another Veterans Charity Under Investigation

Another Veterans Charity Under Investigation

May 23

Military veterans are, sadly, some of the most in need of support from nonprofits, but lately there have been a number of veteran’s charities coming under fire for not doing right by the people they’re supposed to be helping. The Wounded Warrior Project has seen the most press, after the CEO and COO were fired following revelations that they were spending most of the group’s money on pomp and circumstance, instead of helping veterans. Now, The National Vietnam Veterans Foundation is under investigation for similar offenses. The group actually has a rating of 0 out of 4 stars from Charity Navigator, which is pretty damning on its own. A big part of that is because it does not have an independent board of directors. Their board consists of only three members, some of whom are related to each other. According to 2014 tax filings, they spent $133,000 on travel, $8,000 for parking, and $21,000 on awards. How is any of that possibly justified? It doesn’t seem like the organization cares, because they also paid the charity’s head $65,000 that year. Which was in addition to the $127,000 salary he brings home as a deputy director of the Office of General Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has a pretty mixed reputation with veterans, and the idea of somebody who makes that much money in the first place supplementing his income by another 50% instead of actually helping the veterans he purports to work for, is pretty disgusting. Veterans charities exist because the VA isn’t all that good at it’s job, and with people like this involved, it’s not hard to see why. J. Thomas Burch, the individual in question, so far hasn’t responded to requests for interviews from CNN or anyone else, which is a sure sign that he’s got no real defense for his...

NYC Mayor’s Fundraising Arm Stops Working with Investigators

NYC Mayor’s Fundraising Arm Stops Working with Investigators

May 16

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, has been investigated for the conduct of the fundraising arm of his political campaign. The Campaign for One New York is currently being investigated by several entities, including the Joint Commission on Public Integrity (JCOPE). For the last year or so, the state ethics panel has been working closely with the Campaign for One New York but as of April 6th, that organization has stated that they will no longer be replying to JCOPE subpoenas. Although neither the Campaign nor de Blasio have made things entirely clear, there seems to be some concern on their part that the independent, non-profit JCOPE is actually a political tool of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a political rival of de Blasio. They have implied that JCOPE has overstepped its legal purview, and has the wrong motivations in conducting the investigation. The Joint Commission on Public Integrity was formed back in 2011 as an independent monitoring organization. Coumo has been quick to point this out, though he himself is responsible for appointing the groups chair and seven of it’s fourteen members. That does paint a picture of a group which is heavily influenced by the governor, whether or not he directly “pulls the strings.” In response to the letter, JCOPE has asked the courts to force Campaign for One New York to comply and continue submitting to the investigation. That decision should be interesting, as it could establish precedent for de Blasio’s group to shrug off other current and future investigations, and may push other non-profit groups to do the same. Regardless of whether JCOPE is a political tool of Coumo, the Campaign’s reaction this late is the game does seem like a political move, since they’ve been cooperating for so long already, it seems unlikely they didn’t know about Coumo’s alleged...