Police-themed cause trolling Las Vegas spent zip on stated missions

Police-themed causeEddie didn’t give me his last name when he called the New To Las Vegas world headquarters recently. Since he was a interactive computer rather than a real person, it’s possible he didn’t have one.

But he got straight to the point. He was calling on behalf of Police Officers Support Association, which he described as a project of Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC [political action committee], based in Sarasota, Fla. He pressed for a pledge, saying, as I heard it, that donations would go to two missions: (1) supporting political candidates, and (2) helping families of fallen officers.

Okay, I said. How much goes to political contributions and how much goes to families of fallen officers?

Here in its entirety was Eddie’s response: “Okay. Goodbye.” Click.

If you think that seems a little suspicious, so did I. Fortunately, it didn’t take much research through the online records of the Federal Election Commission, where PACs make filings, to see why Eddie or the human undoubtedly monitoring the call might not have wanted to answer my simple double-barreled question.

According to its filings, LEFASA raised $1.09 million in 2018, a major election year. Here’s the amount spent on political contributions: $0. Here’s the amount spent on families of fallen officers: $0.

It doesn’t get any lower than that.

By my reading of the filings, 94% of the $1.09 million raised went to fundraising costs and overhead–mainly fundraising costs. The rest was banked. But if you think LEFASA was building a vast war chest for future elections, think again. Despite seven-figure fundraising, the total amount of cash on hand on December 31, 2018, was just $58,914.50.

The fact that Eddie said LEFASA is based in Sarasota, an otherwise pleasant Florida city, rang a bell for me. A little more research showed LEFASA is connected in some way with the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO–a labor union. They share the same physical address, down to the floor number, and some personnel. The treasurer of LEFASA, for example, is an International Union vice president. And according to LEFASA filings, a certain amount of money, on the order of $100,000, sloshed between LEFASA and the International Union last year in the form of loans and payments. In its election commission filings, though, the LEFASA says it is not affiliated with any other entity.

You might say the International Union and I share a past.

Using the trade name National Police and Troopers Association, the International Union solicits money in the name of fallen officers, falsely implying it is a charity. But it spends almost all of the proceeds (after fundraising costs that top 90% of the amount contributed) on collective bargaining efforts for its members. The last time I looked and opined, just 1/10 of 1% of the funds raised went to fallen officers. Union work, while honorable, is not a legitimate charitable endeavor.

Over the years I’ve gotten enough calls from the police and troopers unit that I’ve made it and the International Union candidates for my long-running list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is simple: nonprofits that call me asking for money despite being the subject of previous critical write-ups. Can it get any dumber than that? You can see the full list elsewhere on this page.

So to my thinking, the International Union is up to some of its old tricks–the same M.O., even down to hanging up when a tough question is asked–using a different name.

Nor is not the first time I have been solicited by a law enforcement-themed political action committee masquerading as a charity. Last year I was called by the Association for Police and First Responders with a pitch that made it sound like large amounts of money would be funneled to police and first responders. As I wrote at the time, it turns out only 10% of the money raised went to anything resembling a proper purpose, with the rest going to fundraising and overhead. And there really was no entity with that name. The cause was simply one of several names used by Heroes United PAC, based in Washington, D.C.

But as bad as 10% was, it was 10 percentage points more than what LEFASA spent on its mission.

Another issue: With some exceptions, Nevada law requires political action committees soliciting in the state to register with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. Since LEFASA called me at my Las Vegas home, it obviously is soliciting in Nevada. But I cannot find a Nevada registration in the name of LEFASA or Police Officers Support Association.

I sent a request for comment to an email address (on an International Union domain name) listed in LEFASA’s registration papers with the election commission. I’ll update this if I hear back. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get another call from Eddie. If so, I’ll be sure to ask him his last name.

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