On October 1, 2021, a new law known as Senate Bill 62 took effect in Nevada. The measure, now codified as Nevada Revised Statutes NRS 82A.025 et seq, required most fundraising causes–specifically including those promoting law enforcement–to refrain from asking for money within the state until they first made filings with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. That agency was given the initial duty to enforce the new law by issuing civil penalties and cease-and-desist letters, or by referring offenders to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.
On October 12, 2021, 12 days after the law took effect, I was cold-called at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters by American Police Officers Alliance PAC, a law enforcement-themed outfit (based in Arlington, Va.) if I ever heard of one. The caller went by “Paul.” I am using quotes because “Paul” was not a real person, but a computer controlled by a human using what is known as soundboard technology. “Paul,” referred me to “Mary”–another soundboard voice. I asked if APOA was registered with Nevada to solicit in the state. “Yes,” Mary replied. I immediate checked with the Nevada Secretary of State’s website. APOA was not registered. So APOA’s representative was a fibber in the Great State of Nevada.
I also reviewed APOA’s filings with federal regulators. It was quickly apparent APOA was what I call a “faux charity.” That’s a political action committee that presents as a charity but isn’t, spending almost all of the money raised in raising it and very little on the stated mission, supporting candidates and causes favoring law enforcement priorities. Others call them “scam” charities.
I wrote up my interaction with APOA at the time, which you can read in the update at the end of the post. I concluded, “We’ll see if Nevada regulators invoke their brand new law requiring registration before solicitation.”
Nearly two years later, I am bringing up APOA again due to an interesting convergence of events that may help provide insight on my query.
First: The New York Times last week ran a looooong story exposing the national charade of PACs sounding like charities and keeping something like 90% of all donations while richly (and secretly) paying the organizers. The article, co-written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Fahrenthold, focused on five linked PACs that collected over some years a total of $89 million in donations. One of the five was APOA. The story quoted a former APOA president as saying he was fired after objecting to the poor financial efficiencies–as well as a lawyer for the organization saying things were on the up-and-up.
Second: Earlier this week I filed a Nevada Public Records Act request with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office for “copies of paperwork from your agency memorializing all fines and cease-and-desist orders issued against soliciting fundraisers in violation of Senate Bill 62.” I don’t imagine this will generate a lot of documents, even though I have received dozens of illegal solicitations, undoubtedly a fraction of thousands made in the Silver State. In a earlier query last week to the Secretary of State’s Office I specifically referenced the New York Times article and APOA and asked for comment for an upcoming post by me “about my perception of shortcomings in the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office and a failure to protect the public.” That prompted a one-sentence response from an agency spokesperson: “Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention, our office has begun looking into this.”
Third: I received another cold-call from APOA, and was handed another lie! The stated name of this caller was “David Turner”–also a soundboard deal. But the voice was the same as “Paul” back in 2021. It’s such a memorable angry-man vocalization–other PACs calling me have used it–that the description of the voice in the New York Times story as “‘David’ with a thick New York accent” immediately rang a big bell. After “David” got through his initial pitch to me, I asked if APOA was a charity. “Yes,” replied “David.” This is a whopper worthy of Burger King! There is, of course, no way a political action committee is a charity, for any number of reasons, including the fact that contributions are not tax-deductible by the donor. Nevada Revised Statutes NRS 598.1305 prohibits making “any claim or representation concerning a contribution which directly, or by implication, has the capacity, tendency or effect of deceiving or misleading a person acting reasonably under the circumstances.” Nevada law treats this as a deceptive trade practice, but the Secretary of State’s Office would have to refer this to the Attorney General’s Office, which in my view is also MIA when it comes to solicitation oversight. Call it the bane of divided regulation.
It goes almost without saying that APOA, which raised and spent about $11 million nationally in the 2021-2022 election cycle with very little going to political action, still hasn’t made filings with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office (yes, I checked). It’s sad. Nevada, a state with minimal government and a lackluster record of consumer protection, nevertheless seems to be one of the few that extends a filing/registration requirement beyond traditional 501(c)(3) charities. But any good to be accomplished by the expanded disclosure law is canceled out by regulators who do little or nothing to enforce the civil laws they are sworn to uphold. (Two other PACs highlighted in the New York Times story, Firefighters and EMS Fund, and National Police Support Fund, have also solicited me without filing in Nevada.)
While the Nevada Secretary of State Office’s ponders how to fully answer my public records and comment requests, I am nominating APOA for inclusion on my blog’s list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria are insanely simple: exempt organizations that call me asking for money despite a previous critical post by me. In the world of fundraising, can it get any dumber than that? You can see the full list nearby.
I emailed requests for comment about the issues I am raising to APOA, and its two listed officials, Treasurer Daniel D. Stuebs and Secretary William Casey. I’ll update this post if I hear anything back. Anyone can comment below.
So we have a race to see who gets in touch next. APOA brass? Nevada Secretary of State’s Office? Frankly, it’s possible I’ll hear first from “David” or “Paul” or whatever soundboard name APOA is using at the time. Asking for money, of course.