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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stealing from veterans

Tea Party Fraud Exposed: Millions of Dollars Intended For Veterans Diverted
Charity fraud!

A conservative charity group claiming to send care packages to U.S. Marines serving in Afghanistan has been caught funneling millions of dollars into the accounts of a Tea Party leader and his political consulting groups.

The Daily Beast exposed the right leaning charity group Move America Forward (MAF) for deceiving donors about where the donations were going and how much they had raised.

Founded in 2005, MAF promotes itself as the U.S.’s “largest grassroots pro-troop organization,” and has the support of Republican leaders, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

ProPublica’s Kim Barker wrote at the Daily Beast that this group is really an unregulated group used to funnel money to the group’s founder.

Barker wrote, “In February 2013 Move America Forward announced an ambitious fundraising goal. The charity, launched in part by one of the most prominent figures in the Tea Party movement, had adopted the 800 Marines in a battalion fighting in Afghanistan and wanted to send them all care packages.”

MAF claimed to be sending the care packages to a 1st Marine Division battalion known as “Geronimo” to help them fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, when the drive was taking place, the Geronimo battalion was actually stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

The charity boasted that the Geronimo drive was a success and that the Marines received the packages as well as all the personalized letters.

Barker also reported that MAF lifted images from other legitimate charities of veterans and accounts of successful deliveries to U.S. troops, and used them on their fraudulent site in an effort to appear valid.

According to tax experts, the group has pumped millions of dollars to Tea Party groups and to a California Republican businessman, Sal Russo, 67, founder of Move America Forward, the Tea Party Express and a number of other conservative political groups.

ProPublica also reported that the last five tax returns show that MAF paid out “more than $2.3 million to Russo or Russo, Marsh and Associates for services including ‘program management and advertising.’ That’s about 30 percent of the charity’s overall expenditures over that time.”

The group holds an annual “Troopathon” fund-raiser that features “live and taped appearances by conservative stars from entertainment, media and politics, including actor Gary Sinise, rock idol Gene Simmons of the rock group KISS, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. The charity counts all the money raised in the month of the broadcast as part of Troopathon.” Sponsors of MAF include the San Francisco 49ers, Breitbart media, and Cumulus Radio.

Move America Forward brags that it has provided more than 315 tons of care packages to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barker argued, however, that the figure is very difficult to verify. Neither the Department of Defense nor the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan track the volume of packages sent to U.S. troops in the field.

Kimberley A. Johnson (BIO) is the author ofThe Virgin Diaries and an activist for women’s rights. Like her on Facebook,Twitter or follow her on FB HERE