It was a hot sweaty day at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters recently when the phone rang. Identifying himself as “Charles Anderson,” the cold-caller asked for a contribution to something called Police Officers Support Committee PAC. In response to my question, he said the political action committee was headquartered in Woodbridge, Va., a distant suburb of Washington, D.C.
I asked how old the organization was. “Anderson” replied, “That’s a really good question.” But instead of giving me a simple direct answer, I was provided with the URL of the organization’s website. Then without another word, “Anderson” hung up. Not even a good-bye. Totally non-suspicious, of course.
I’m using quotation marks around my caller’s stated name because “Anderson” is not a real person, but rather a computer operated by a human using what is known as soundboard technology. The website of Police Officers Support Committee PAC contained no information that I could see about when the group was formed. A Google Maps search suggests the stated headquarters is simply a mail drop at a Staples office supplies store just off Interstate 95.
Now, if you are a regular visitor to this blog, you probably already have a good sense of where I’m going here. But please read on. There’s actually a twist to this one.
Yes, Police Officers Support Committee PAC has all the trappings of what I call a “faux charity.” That’s a political action committee masquerading as a charity, spending almost all the money nationally raised in raising it–including hidden payments to organizers–and next to nothing on the stated purpose, in this case supporting political candidates who will advocate for law enforcement. Such organizations have terrible financial efficiencies, which would-be donors don’t learn about. The New York Times recently published an exposé on the subject, highlighting several PACs I have written about here in the past and the big money raised and not spent on a cause.
I can’t say here for sure, because, as it turned out, this one is simply too new to make any public financial filings with the Internal Revenue Service, where it is registered, that I can analyze. POSC PAC, the parent organization of Police Officers Support Organization PAC, is just a half-year old, having filed its registration papers on January 12 (the question “Anderson” wouldn’t answer). But the website “Anderson” referred me to–the domain was registered just last September–did contain this ominous warning in the smallest-possible type at the bottom: “A large portion of the contributions given to our organization are used to help offset the costs associated with fundraising.”
If what I’ve seen elsewhere in this sector holds–and I’ve seen an awful lot–“large” is going to be something upwards of 90%. That would mean less than 10 cents of every donated dollar goes to the stated cause. As a would-be donor interested in helping police causes, would you want to know almost all of your contribution will go poof?
An unusual two-year-old Nevada law codified as Nevada Revised Statues 82A.025 et seq. prohibits fundraising within the state for, among other causes, “the benefit of law enforcement” without first registering with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office and making financial filings. I just checked with Carson City. Neither POSC PAC, Police Officers Support Committee PAC, nor another d/b/a name used, National Police Officers Alliance PAC, is registered. Imagine: a law enforcement support group operating illegally.
The Secretary of State’s office, meanwhile, recently admitted to me it has not issued a single cease-and-desist order or penalty against any unregistered PAC since the new law took effect despite what have been–judging from the number of calls I get–hundreds of thousands of illegal pitches. On the federal level, the IRS and the Federal Election Commission, which both can register PACs, are no better in their oversight.
And now the twist. On top of all this, despite its relative youth, POSC PAC and Police Officers Support Committee PAC, plus one Al Nizick, identified in that January 12 IRS filing as the treasurer, are already being sued civilly in a Texas federal district court. The plaintiff: Christopher M. Laccinole, of Willis, Tex., near Houston, who said he received a number of their telephone pitches in violation of federal and Texas law. His filed pleading bluntly calls the operation a “scam.”
The defendants have not yet answered either Laccinole’s lawsuit in court or my request for comment, sent to an email address on that January 12 IRS filing. I’ll update this post if I hear back.
A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and Veterans Administration administrator, Laccinole, 49, is what you might call a professional plaintiff on the side. Published court opinions suggest he has filed scores of lawsuits alleging various violation of telephone solicitation laws and rules for calls made to his cell phones. Most of the cases were in Rhode Island, where he formerly lived until relocating to Texas for family reasons. He acts as his own lawyer.
The well-spoken Laccinole told me in a telephone interview yesterday he has won 75% of the cases, receiving tens of thousands of dollars, mainly, it seems, in settlements. But judges also have fretted he uses cheap burner cell phones to gin up cases and throws in inflammatory but legally irrelevant material in his pleadings. Opposing lawyers have accused Laccinole of running a robocall litigation business. From trade publication articles his name clearly is a dirty word in the telemarketing fraternity. Equally clearly, he doesn’t care.
In his Houston lawsuit, filed exactly a month ago on June 21, Laccinole alleges that starting in April he received 17 calls from Police Officers Support Committee PAC asking for money despite being on the federally established Do Not Call list. The complaint contends this alone violates the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act because they were robocalls to a cell phone, where recipients without unlimited minutes might have to bear the cost of incoming air time. (I must note here that the Do Not Call list rules contain broad exceptions for political and charitable solicitation.)
“Defendant Nizick solicits money to pay for police officers, but keeps the money for himself and his fundraisers,” the complaint alleges. Nizick, whose address is given as Oak Forest, Ill., farms out the calling work to unknown parties who are also sued as Does 1 to 10, the lawsuit says.
Using two different statutory provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Laccinole’s lawsuit seeks $3,000 for each of the 17 calls, plus another $1,500 per call under the Texas version of the law. The suit also asks for another $5,000 per call for what it calls violations of a general Texas Business and Commerce Code provision requiring telemarketer registration.
By my reckoning, this adds up to $161,500. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction against similar behavior in the future.
Laccinole’s lawsuit is highly technical, based on complicated statutory interpretations. None of the claimed causes of action turns directly on poor fundraising efficiencies or proof of donated money not getting to the claimed clause. But Laccinole is clearly hoping the court will take notice of the larger picture.
I consider it rather unlikely Laccinole will get that full amount from the POSC PAC operation, or anything near it. But he might get something. And the publicity likely won’t help Police Officers Support Committee PAC, especially if prospective donors start Googling around for information. Maybe cold-caller “Charles Anderson” then will have to answer more questions, hot sweaty day or not.
UPDATE ON JULY 21, 2023, 10:15 a.m. PT
Less than six hours after this post went up, I received yet another call at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters from “Charles Anderson” seeking a donation for Police Officers Support Committee PAC. Accordingly, along with its parent, POSC PAC, I now have two more candidates for my long-running list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is insanely simple: fundraising organizations that call asking for money despite a previously critical post about them by me. I mean, in the world of telemarketing, can it really get any dumber than that? The full list of candidates, with links, can be found nearby.