Kids Wish Network–one-time ‘worst charity in America’–prowls anew in Las Vegas

Kids Wish NetworkLong before New To Las Vegas, I was New To Seattle. And it was in the Emerald City way back in 2012 that I first got called on the phone from a fundraiser for a Holiday, Fla., charity called Kids Wish Network. She asked for a donation to help children with life-threatening conditions.

I asked how much of cash donations went to fundraising as opposed to the children. The fundraiser said she had no current information. That pretty much ended that conversation. After looking up documents online, I had my answer: 74%, meaning barely a quarter of what was raised remained available for everything else, including kids. I wrote up KWN in a withering post headlined “Another day, another dodgy charity calls around Seattle.” You can read it by clicking here.

The next year, KWN popped up as No. 1 on a list put together by the Tampa Bay Times of “America’s Worst Charities.” The once-off roster of 50 was based on two factors: the large amount of money raised over time that went to fundraisers, and the tiny amount of money going out in cash grants in support of the stated mission. The paper flatly called KWN the “worst charity in America.” I can’t say I was surprised by KWN’s ranking.

But here’s something surprising to me. Despite my earlier lashing, a KWN fundraiser asking for money just called me again, this time at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. The conversation was even briefer. The caller–actually an interactive computer–quickly hung up as I again started asking questions, not even answering one.

And again looking up documents online, the organization seems to me no less sketchy, as I will explain more fully below. Meanwhile, I am nominating KWN for my own long-running list: America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is pretty basic: nonprofits that call me asking for money despite being the subject of a previous critical post by me. I mean, can it get any dumber than that? The list of other nominees can be found nearby. Continue reading

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In Las Vegas, Clark County Parks and Rec has a doggone problem

Earlier this year, a Las Vegas woman whose small dog was killed by a bigger dog at Dog Fancier’s Park shamed Clark County Parks and Rec officials by going public on TV to complain about the lack of a dedicated dog run for smaller canines. Nor, as I earlier had recounted here, was that the first such recent attack at the sprawling off-leash East Las Vegas facility off E. Flamingo Road near the New To Las Vegas world headquarters.

Since then, chagrined county managers have been rushing to remake Dog Fancier’s Park by adding fencing to create new dog runs for smaller dogs and installing a whole lot of new warning signs. That’s all good. But maybe a little too much rushing, judging from the embarrassing capitalization, spelling and word spacing errors displayed on one newly posted large new sign (red annotations are by yours truly):

Dog Fancier's Park

“Learn the 4P Warning Signs” to prevent dog fights, the metal sign proclaims near the top. To Parks and Rec, I suggest a fifth P.

Proofreading.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Alleged Las Vegas affair before ritzy New York wedding

Las Vegas affairThere’s nothing like an alleged affair in Las Vegas with a Trump angle to spice up the pre-Labor Day dog days of summer.

Page Six, the venerable gossip arm of The New York Post, is reporting today that a Las Vegas waitress starting posting online photos allegedly proving she had a brief affair earlier this year in Las Vegas with an heir to a New York laundry fortune hours before his marriage last weekend at a ritzy Long Island venue to a manager at The Trump Organization. To make the account even more delicious, the waitress, who goes by the name Mayra Angel, posted the photos on Instagram using a hashtag set up by the couple, ensuring that the bride, bridegroom and all the guests would see them.

The heir, Cory Perlson, denied any fling whatsoever, according to The Post. His lawyer is trying to get some kind of restraining order against Angel while also seeking to convince prosecutors to bring criminal charges. What they might be is unclear, if Angel truthfully told The Post she requested no money and hasn’t been in contact with Perlson or his now-wife, Brianna Ehland. Her LinkedIn profile says she has been senior manager of social marketing for The Trump Organization since early 2016 and is a 2014 graduate of the University of Arizona.

But this is more than enough to make Perlson a candidate for my New To Las Vegas list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s a roster of folks in hot water somewhere else for something that happened in Vegas. It’s a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the infamous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. Continue reading

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In Las Vegas, watch what they write, not what they show, at Sprouts

At Sprouts Farmers Market in Las Vegas–and, I suppose, everywhere else across the 325-store chain in 19 states–it’s fine to look at the big colorful packaging on the items. But make very sure you read the smaller type.

Here’s what I saw today in the store at the corner of E. Flamingo Rd. and S. Pecos Rd. The red annotation was added by yours truly at the nearby New To Las Vegas world headquarters.

Sprouts

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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Sketchy law enforcement supporter trolls Las Vegas

Sketchy law enforcement supporterIn the past month or so I have received several telephone calls at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters from cold-calling telemarketers soliciting a donation for something they call Association for Police and First Responders. They made it sound like a charity that would funnel large amounts of needed aid to, well, police and first responders.

Don’t believe it.

For starters, there really is no APFR. It’s a dba used by a Washington, D.C.-based outfit called Heroes United PAC. That’s right, PAC, as in political action committee, supposedly working to influence elections. Heroes United PAC isn’t a charity at all, although it also solicits under the seemingly charitable name Volunteer Firefighters Association.

According to Heroes United PAC’s filings with the Federal Election Commission–not exactly a charity regulator–in a year-and-a-half of existence, about 90% of the $2.6 million raised went for fundraising costs. That left just 10% for the mission, in this case exercising political influence to advance law enforcement interests. That only 10 cents on the dollar went to the cause is a fact that would-be donors are not advised of upfront and likely would not be pleased to learn even if they didn’t mind being fooled by the charity-sounding spiel of the telemarketers.

Aside from a single $9,800 expenditure in support of one candidate, it’s a little unclear where all of the other money has gone–so much so that the FEC has raised questions. But gone it has. Despite receiving that $2.6 million, Heroes United PAC as of June 30 had only $3,533.87 in cash on hand. That’s not going to fund much of a campaign for anyone or any cause in the fall elections.

Indeed, Heroes United PAC is so sketchy it can’t even get its names all straight. The telemarketers who called me, the website and even the logo displayed nearby on this page called it the Association FOR Police and First Responders (my emphasis). But the filings to the FEC–which are under penalty of perjury–used Association OF Police and First Responders (again my emphasis). It’s only a preposition, but the variance is further evidence to me that something is off. Continue reading

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It Didn’t Stay Here: New Jersey jail guard fired after phoning in sick from Las Vegas

It Didn't Stay Here

Camden County Correctional Facility, Camden, N.J. (courtesy Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders)

The title of the 40-page document is hardly a grabber: “State of New Jersey, Final Administrative Action of the Civil Service Commission. In the Matter of Tia Smith, Camden County Correctional Facility, Department of Corrections.” But for several reasons its contents spoke loudly to me.

Smith, a correction officer with two college degrees and six years on the job, flew with friends to celebrate her birthday in Las Vegas last year. But according to the decision, rather than getting back in time to Camden for her next assigned shift, she falsely phoned in sick while still in Las Vegas. Partly because this was not her first offense as an employee, Smith was fired. The dismissal was upheld this month by the independent New Jersey state agency charged with protecting governmental workers against arbitrary employment actions.

This more than makes Smith a candidate for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster consists of folks in trouble somewhere else for something that happened in Vegas. It’s a refutation of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. My ever-lengthening list of nominees can be found elsewhere on this page. Smith has some prominent company, including Bill Cosby, Donald J. Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron.

But there’s another reason this case drew my attention. Long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I was New To Camden, which is just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. I was born and raised in Camden County, then and now a place full of governmental mischief. For most of the 1970s and into the 1980s I worked there as a reporter for several newspapers. One of them was the Camden Courier-Post, whose reporter, Jim Walsh, recounted today the sad story of Smith’s dismissal, for which I am indebted. My account is drawn from the aforementioned Civil Service Commission decision, incorporating and ratifying the written opinion of Administrative Law Judge Dorothy Incarvito-Garrabrant. Continue reading

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A charity fundraising pitch in Las Vegas for the dogs

Dogs for Law EnforcementUpdated on June 18, 2018.   See end of post

The recent telephone caller to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters said his name was Sam. He was cold-calling on behalf of Dogs for Law Enforcement. Sam described this as a national charitable organization based in the Houston area providing police agencies with trained dogs that cost $20,000 to $50,000 each. The agencies, Sam said, get the pooches “at no cost to the taxpayer.” He asked for a pledge that he said would be tax-deductible.

I sniffed the air. A tax-deductible contribution would cost taxpayers somewhere the value of any tax savings I might get, even if not where the dogs were furnished.

I sniffed the air again. Since Sam volunteered nothing, I asked him directly how much of the donations received actually went to the stated mission of providing and training dogs.

There was a pause. Ten percent, he replied.

So that meant 90% of cash gifts went for fundraising and other stuff rather than dogs, I suggested. Sam had a reply I didn’t understand.

But with for-profit middlemen getting such a rake-off, I knew by then the essence of what I needed to know. After Sam and I ended our conversation, I did some more sniffing around. It’s actually worse than I thought, including the fact that DLE never has been registered to solicit in Nevada. That makes very illegal the pitch to me on behalf of, ironically, dogs helping the law. Continue reading

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Far from Las Vegas, thoughts on the Abscam sting of conman Mel Weinberg

Mel Weinberg

Christian Bale playing the Mel Weinberg character in “American Hustle” (courtesy Sony Pictures)

The New York Times just published an obituary of Mel Weinberg. Can’t place him? He was the convicted conman-turned-FBI-informant who brought down a slew of bribe-taking politicians in the Abscam scandal, which surfaced in 1980 along the East Coast in such places as Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, New York City, Long Island, Camden, N.J. and Atlantic City.

You might remember the 2013 movie “American Hustle,” which is somewhat based on Abscam. The Weinberg character, renamed Irv Rosenfeld, is played by Christian Bale. His girlfriend is played by Jennifer Lawrence.

Weinberg died in Florida at age 93, having outlived just about everyone he plotted with or swindled. The Times for some reason afforded him an honor normally reserved for the high and mighty: a pre-death interview for the obituary. “I’ve had a good life, a charmed life,” he said in 2017. “I should have been dead a long time ago.”

As a newspaper reporter long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I covered Abscam when it broke. I never met Weinberg. But after “American Hustle” was released in 2013, I wrote an essay about the film’s connection with reality for NewToSeattle.com, a previous blog of mine, and discussed Weinberg. Below is my lightly re-edited account. Continue reading

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Far from Las Vegas, the racist cant of the National Anthem and its lyricist

racist cant of the National Anthem

Francis Scott Key

You might think that President Donald J. Trump, who demands that pro football players stand for the National Anthem, would at least know its words himself and sing them with hearty gusto. Alas, it was painfully clear from his White House event yesterday, rebranded as a patriotic “Celebration of America” function after most players on the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles signaled they would skip the visit, that he doesn’t and can’t. Per the video,Trump seemed to have trouble remembering and vocalizing all the lyrics.

But overall that may not be such a bad thing. As I have pointed out before, “The Star-Spangled Banner” contains lyrics–mercifully, rarely sung–that welcomes the killing of fleeing slaves. Moreover, lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), the man who wrote those words as a poem in 1814, was a slaveowner himself who opposed abolition and who as a government prosecutor once tried to jail a writer who truthfully wrote that the nation’s capital was a stinking, lousy place for blacks to live.

Growing up in the Philadelphia area long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I rooted for the Eagles. The forthright position now of the team’s players, who unlike some on other NFL teams never failed to stand for the anthem (contrary to what Trumpeter Fox News reported for a time) but respected those who didn’t, makes me think I should repeat some of the bad history.  Continue reading

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A snapshot of Las Vegas

Among the most important stories right now on a Saturday afternoon around the New To Las Vegas headquarters, according to the home page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: four suspicious deaths in three incidents and an Army deserter running in a GOP primary (considered the least significant of the four stories). Welcome to Sin City.snapshot of Las vegas

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