Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cancer Charity Made Fa$t Getaway

"Car donation charity is target of inquiry; Little cash sent to cancer group, official alleges" by Brian Bakst Associated Press  October 15, 2015

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s attorney general accused one of the nation’s largest vehicle-donation charities on Wednesday of putting little money toward its advertised mission while steering millions to the for-profit companies owned by the group’s founders.

Not cars for kids? It's such a sweet jingle.

Democratic Attorney General Lori Swanson said about one-fifth of the Car Donation Foundation’s $108 million in gross revenue during a four-year period went toward charitable grants, while the rest was used for overhead, marketing, and payments to a pair of companies. The St. Paul-based foundation solicits vehicle donations under a ‘‘Wheels for Wishes’’ program that pledges the proceeds to local Make-A-Wish chapters to help children battling cancer.

Might as well call it what it is: theft.

At lea$t $omeone's wi$hes were met, huh?

Almost 50,000 vehicles were donated to the foundation in 2014, amounting to $37 million in revenue. The foundation makes itself attractive to donors by arranging quick pickup of inoperable vehicles and documentation that could be used for income tax deductions.

The foundation’s founders, William Bigley and Randy Heiligman, declined an interview request. The foundation itself issued a statement saying it disagreed with the report.

It said car donation programs ‘‘are very expensive to administer,’’ and its website is clear about those costs. The foundation said its charitable giving ‘‘meets or exceeds industry standards.’’

Swanson’s investigators said the foundation would pay one of the founder’s for-profit companies for managing the charity’s operations and fund-raising, and another associated company for towing, scrapping, or reselling donated vehicles. The two companies, owned by Bigley and Heiligman, reaped a combined $36 million in payments from the foundation between 2011 and 2014, according to the office’s review of tax records. She said $23 million went to the charitable mission during that time.

The foundation has a presence in about 40 states and has come under prior scrutiny by the IRS for the charity’s cozy ties to the private firms. The founders left the charity’s board of directors in response but maintained a hands-on role in its daily operations. Regulators in South Carolina and Oregon have highlighted the group in reports of charities with unusually high administrative costs....