Last week–fresh from New Year’s Day 2022–my would-be buddy “John” called the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. In a voice bristling with emotion and even anger he beseeched me to give money to Back Blue Lives PAC. That’s an Alexandria, Va.-based outfit he said supported law enforcement. A PAC–the letters stand for political action committee–is supposed to then make contributions to favored candidates for public office.
This was not my first encounter with “John.” He called way back in October with the same emotive plea for Back Blue Lives PAC. Not only did I decline his pitch then, I did some research. This revealed a few shortcomings about his organization, which seems to be counting on conservative law-and-order resentment to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Like the fact its federal financial filings show it never has made a single political donation to anyone. Like the fact it spent almost all the money raised in fundraising expense and overhead, leaving little behind for a political war chest supporting The Thin Blue Line. Like the fact that it had not complied with a new Nevada law requiring fundraisers for law-enforcement causes to first register with and make public filings to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.
I wrote this all up back then in a post you can read by clicking here. I labeled Back Blue Lives PAC a “faux charity.” That’s my label for a PAC that sounds charitable but isn’t, sporting dreadful financial efficiencies with almost no donations from the solicited public going to the stated mission. Also, such donations are not tax-deductible by the donor.
Yet there was “John” back on the phone to me again making, as near as I can remember, the exact same ask! (I use quotes because “John” isn’t a real person, but a computer-created voice monitored by a real but hidden human using what is known as soundboard technology.)
This is so twisted I’m nominating Back Blue Lives PAC for my long-running list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is scandalously simple: a nonprofit or exempt organization calling me asking for money despite a previous critical article by me about the very same organization. Seriously, folks, how can it get dumber than that in the world of fundraising? Elsewhere on this page you can review the entire list with links to their sad backstories.
I just checked the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office website again. There’s still no indication Back Blue Lives PAC locally has registered and made public financial filings so it legally can contact Nevadans like me rattling its tin cup.
In fact, Back Blue Lives PAC hasn’t even made any new filings with its far-away primary regulator, the Federal Election Commission in Washington D.C. I use the term “regulator” only in a strictly legal sense. The FEC often is missing in action when it comes to policing such faux charities, by failing to make sure, for instance, that they behave like legitimate PACs and actually give significant money (or in this case, any money) to candidates. All the data I have now is through June 30, 2021.
So what I wrote in October still stands:
[S]ince its creation barely a year ago on August 14, 2020, Back Blue Lives PAC has received $312,000 in contributions. It spent $271,000 of that in fundraising costs and related overhead–and not even one dime in political contributions to, as the PAC’s bare-bones website says, “support pro law and order candidates for public office.” Put another way, Back Blue Lives PAC spent 87% of the donations collected in raising the donations, and 0% in furtherance of the stated mission. How many would-be donors would be happy to know this?
Of that $312,000 given by unsuspecting donors, Back Blue Lives PAC on June 30, 2021, had left in its bank account only $39,207.37. That’s not going to help a lot of candidates even if Back Blue Lives PAC finally decides to step up and open its wallet. A new report to the FEC is due later this month for the second half of 2021.
The new Nevada law that Back Blue Lives PAC is flouting, known as Senate Bill 62, greatly expanded prior registration and financial information-filing requirements, which had applied only to certain charities that had tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, which PACs do not. Among other things, the new law explicitly covers any soliciting organization, tax-exempt or not, that “purports to be established for … the benefit of law enforcement.” The legislative history of the bill makes clear that includes PACs.
Senate Bill 62 was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak on May 25, 2021, and took effect October 1, 2021.
Now, I don’t expect too much from Nevada authorities, which traditionally have been missing-in-action when it comes to policing dodgy fundraising. Two state agencies–the Nevada Attorney General’s Office and the aforementioned Nevada Secretary of State’s Office–share jurisdiction, which means accountability is greatly diminished. Also, the SOSO has yet to comply with a 2013 Nevada law requiring it to post full and complete statements of registered charities on its own website. This forces would-be donors trying to due diligence on, say, calls from sources like “John” to consult out-of-state sources that can be years out of date.
Still, word about Back Blue Lives PAC is getting around. Since my October post, an AARP affiliate in the Pacific Northwest has put Back Blue Lives PAC on its list of “Top Five Robocall Scams in the Vancouver/Portland Areas.” You can hear a recording of “John’s” spiel–very similar to the multiple ones I received–by clicking here.
Back Blue Lives PAC’s FEC filings list just two officials: Treasurer David Marston and Assistant Treasurer Brenda Hankins. Both are lawyers and former George W. Bush administration officials who run ElectionCFO, whose website says provides compliance services to PACs. The posted client list includes a number of Republican and conservative causes.
Last week, I queried them at email addresses on Back Blue Lives PAC’s FEC filings requesting comment about the issues I raised above and will update this post if I hear back. Before my post in October, I also queried both of them for comment, but there was no response. Based on past experience, I’m probably more likely to first hear again from “John.”
Given that they are lawyers, have you consider the bar disciplinary board(s) responsible for licensing (and disciplining) them? The prospect of losing their licenses seems likely to cause them more concern than the possibility of anything charity regulators are likely to do.