Recently, at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters I got a cold call from one “Ralph Bennett” soliciting money for Firefighters and EMS Fund, which lists an address in Alexandria, Va. I use quotes because “Ralph” wasn’t a person in the traditional beating-heart sense of the word. Rather, “Ralph” was a voice generated by a computer monitored by a human operator using what is known as soundboard technology. The operator chooses–sort of like a DJ–among scores of pre-recorded sound bites to entice the would-be donor.
“Ralph” went on about how his national organization helped first responders. I cut in and asked if Firefighters and EMS Fund was a charity. “Yes,” he replied. I politely challenged that characterization, suggesting with another question the outfit was simply a political action committee. A PAC most definitely isn’t a charity since, among other reasons, contributions aren’t tax-deductible and it doesn’t do what most folks would consider good works for society.
“Yes,” replied “Ralph” again.
Perhaps even he realized this conversation wasn’t going well from his perspective. “Ralph” finally said Firefighters and EMS Fund was “rebranded” and used to be called Firefighters Support Fund. Now that piqued my interest “Why was it rebranded?” I asked.
“Ralph” hung up.
Poking around the Internet, it didn’t take long to figure out a possible reason for the rebranding. Under its old name, “Ralph’s” organization had drawn negative comments for misleading would-be donors about what it does.
But for me there are two bigger issues. First, from my review of filings, only a sliver of what Firefighters and EMS Fund/Firefighters Support Fund received in contributions was spent for what I would call its stated mission of generating political support for first responders. Almost all the money went for fundraising expense, overhead and, presumably buried somewhere amid thousands of pages of filings, compensation for its operators. Firefighters and EMS Fund is what I called a “faux charity,” a PAC that hopes would-be donors will think it is a real charity. Some other commentators call such operations a “scam charity.”
Secondly, by calling me, Firefighters and EMS Fund violated a Nevada law that look effect last year. The law requires fundraisers working in Nevada for, among other causes, firefighters and public safety to first register with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office and make financial filings. I just checked with the SOSO’s website, and there is no registration for Firefighters and EMS Fund, Firefighters Support Fund or Firefighters Support Alliance, another name associated with the operation.
But don’t bet on Nevada state regulators doing much about it. Continue reading
Share on Facebook