February 15, 2018; Center for Public Integrity
NPQ has, for over a decade, been trying to draw more than periodic attention to veterans’ charities that defraud the public, using concern for veterans as a surefire emotional hook. In many cases, the so-called charities use telemarketers to raise millions, passing along only pennies on the dollar. In mid-December, the Center for Public Integrity published an investigation of another one of these entities—this one known as the Center for American Homeless Veterans, run by founder Brian Arthur Hampton. CPI reports that “the Center for American Homeless Veterans’ tax return offers little evidence that the organization is funding or otherwise directly supporting such endeavors. Its 2015 tax return indicates it provided just $200 in grants to other organizations out of $2.5 million in overall expenditures, the vast majority of which paid telemarketers.” Hampton also had to be paid, making over $340,000 that same year.
In any case, the Virginia attorney general, Mark Herring, has now issued a “civil investigative demand” for documents from the nonprofit. Michael Kelly, Herring’s spokesperson, confirmed his office is investigating the Center for American Homeless Veterans, but he spoke more broadly of the problem in a statement: “Attorney General Herring has made it a priority to crack down on financial exploitation of veterans and fraudulent charities, as evidenced by his work with colleagues to shut down the deceptive ‘VietNow’ charity, and the record-setting $100 million settlement his team secured against USA Discounters for deceptive sales and debt collection practices.” Readers may remember our coverage of this case, which was pursued in a coordinated way by 25 states.
But, in addition to this state action, just a day before, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC), citing CPI’s recent investigation among others, sent a letter to the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform urging them to launch an investigation into these types of “bad actors,” writing, “Congress should not sit on the sidelines while unscrupulous individuals abuse their tax-exempt status, fleece donors and take advantage of the men and women who have served our great nation and their families.”—Ruth McCambridge