Editor's note: Watch Drew Griffin's report on several cancer charities that have raised millions of dollars. He investigates how that money is being used. Tune in to AC360° at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.
For more than a year, my colleague, producer David Fitzpatrick, and I have been crisscrossing the country exposing corrupt charities. We’ve found there is no shortage of greedy scam artists who will ask for your heartfelt donations, only to squander your money or keep it as their own.
We’ve had doors slammed in our face by so-called veterans’ charities. They raise money in the name of our country’s military heroes; yet in some cases, hardly any money reaches veterans in need.
We’ve exposed the gifts in kind trick, where well-intentioned people give donations to a charity group, and then the organization sends leftover junk, hand-me-downs or giveaways to the needy. They pretend it’s somehow proof of their “charitable work.”
In one case, thousands of bags of coconut M&M’s were sent to a non-profit for homeless veterans. The same “charitable group” sent these homeless vets shiny surplus Navy dress shoes. We’ve even found left over football pants being “donated” as a gift in kind to a veterans service organization. (Was that in case some homeless vets wanted to field a sports team?)
We’ve seen money raised in the names of war vets, war pets, animals in general, and now even cancer patients. And we’ve shown you, in detail, just how it all appears to be one big scam – a way to enrich the lives of the charity operators or outside companies hired to help the charities raise funds.
Tonight, we begin another chapter in this investigation. We partnered with the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting, who compiled a list of America's 50 worst charities – based on how much money they waste on fundraising and phone solicitations.
Our reporting partners looked at tax returns from the charities themselves and analyzed them line by line. They examined how money, donated by generous Americans, was squandered by non-profit charities. The information all comes from the charities who report the same information directly to the IRS.
And yet again I am disappointed by what we can’t report to you. The federal government has not acted. Understaffed and overworked regulators cannot keep a close eye on the many charitable organizations that seem to be profiting from their non-profit status.
It is even more surprising in the wake of the scandal surrounding the Tea Party applications. Non-profit investigators at the IRS scrutinized applications for Tea Party groups seeking non-profit status, but have apparently not been able to stop the charities we’ve exposed.
As I say, we’ve done the work, along with the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting, and there is now a comprehensive list of malevolent groups.
Not surprisingly, for this report and all the other reports we’ve been airing, the IRS repeatedly declined to comment.
If you’ve ever contributed to a charity, or intend to in the future, don’t miss tonight’s report at 8 and 10 p.m. ET on CNN.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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