Readers of my last post will find this one very familiar.
At the New To Las Vegas world headquarters recently, I received a telephone cold call from someone calling herself Christine soliciting in the name of Breast Cancer Health Council PAC, a d/b/a of Community Health Council PAC. “Can the women with breast cancer count on you to return a small donation?” she asked.
I politely said, “Where is your organization located?”
Christine: “Okay. Goodbye.” Click. She hung up.
As I wrote in my last post, about American Coalition for Injured Veterans PAC after a computer-built voice named Bob Malone hung up when I asked the same question, “Now that sure seems like a deal on the up-and-up, doesn’t it?”
Christine was another computer-generated voice working with artificial intelligence and a real person monitoring the call (although with the abrupt hang-up one might question the emotional intelligence part of this). But the similarities hardly stop there.
Both organizations are PACs–lightly regulated federally registered political action committees designed to support or oppose candidates and causes–posing as charities and soliciting nationally. Both route virtually no money to their stated areas of interest. Both have terrible financial efficiencies and little money in the bank for the upcoming federal election season in 2020. Both likely have no interest in making it easy for a would-be donor to check them out, hence the quick phone hang-ups at the first question. Both have misleading charitable-sounding names. Both have run into recent trouble with regulators. Both list as their address the same office suite in Washington, D.C.
And both have as their treasurer one Zachary Bass. He’s the mysterious Baltimore fellow who likely is paying himself more than is being spent on all political campaigns backed. I first encountered him last year after I was called on behalf of one of his other sketchy endeavors, Heroes United PAC d/b/a Association for Police and First Responders.
In my last post I detailed for you some disturbing things about American Coalition. Now let me detail for you some disturbing things about Community Health Council PAC d/b/a Breast Cancer Health Council PAC, which I’ll call BCHC for short.
The enterprise was founded in the summer of 2017. Through June 30, 2019, its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, BCHC raised $4.48 million in donations, mostly small amounts from mom-and-pop givers who likely thought they would be helping the good fight against breast cancer. But of that sum, $4.02 million was listed as spent in raising the money, or “donor outreach” as it’s euphemistically called in the federal filings. So 90 cents of each dollar donated went directly to fundraising enterprises.
This is not volunteered to the mom-and-pop donors, and for good reason. How many would donate if they knew 90% of their gifts–which since they are to a PAC aren’t even tax-deductible–went straight down a rathole?
But the fuller picture is even worse than that. Of the $4.48 million raised, only $142,000 was spent in direct furtherance of specific political candidacies–a dozen or so House of Representatives candidates in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina and Tennessee. That’s barely 3% of the money raised. Another $64,000 was listed as going for “media”–I don’t know, maybe generic advertisements urging that breast cancer be fought. Even throwing that into the mission pool, only 4.5% of that $4.48 million was spent for anything touching on political activity. Another $230,000 was listed as going for “media consulting,” which strikes me as absurd since less than that was handed out for political purposes.
Undoubtedly, a good chunk of all these funds went to Bass, although I can’t tell how much. What I can tell you is that on June 30, 2019, BCHC had left in its bank account all of $7,612.85 of that $4.48 million raised. That’s not going to fight a lot of breast cancer.
How deceptive is all this? BCHC, and its parent, Community Health Council PAC, both use the word “council” in their names. One of my dictionaries defines “council” as “an advisory, deliberative, or legislative body of people formally constituted and meeting regularly.” In my long experience writing about cause-related gift-giving, legitimate entities proud of their backers list the names of their board members on their websites or formal filings. You won’t find detail like this on either of BCHC’s two websites, here and here. I’m thinking that’s because there is no one other than Bass and a few helpers.
Regulators are starting to take notice. In April Community Health Council d/b/a BCHC paid a fine and agreed to be prohibited “in perpetuity” from solicitation in Pennsylvania after the state’s Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations said it was operating in the state without registration. “In perpetuity” is a long time; it means forever.
Last month, the Montgomery County (Md.) Office of Consumer Protection accused another Bass operation, Heroes United PAC, of using a “fraudulent business model” to solicit donors in that tony Washington, D.C.-area county. According to the agency, Bass co-signed an agreement requiring Heroes United PAC to contact all donors in that county since 2017 and offer full refunds.
As is my practice, I sent a request for comment to Bass and BCHC stating many of these points. I’ll update this post if I hear back. Again, very familiar.