The February 7, 2018 news release issued by the BBB and entitled, “BBB: Fundraisers Take Majority of Donations Made To Veterans in Defense of Liberty,” (ViDoL) is a malicious, materially false, reckless, libelous, and professionally incompetent hit piece on VIDOL.
The BBB failed to professionally verify the accuracy of its bogus and fraudulent report about VIDOL and its marketing agency before issuing it, and then participating in spreading it at multiple news sources. Nor did the BBB even have the honest courtesy to provide VIDOL an advance copy of this smear and ambush to allow VIDOL to issue a more timely response with facts proving the BBB release contains false information.
VIDOL’s mission is to inform and advocate about the constitutional, patriotic principles underlying our republic. As a substantial part of VIDOL’s start-up direct mail program, the first full year of which was 2014, its tax-exempt mission included attempting to reach millions of veterans, their families, and other patriotic citizens using informative direct mail letters and newsletters that bypassed the misinformation or lack of information from what is now known as the “fake news” media. Unlike charities, VIDOL’s 501(c)(4) tax- exempt status enables it to lobby Congress on behalf of veterans’ issues.
Assuredly because of its conservative, patriotic mission, VIDOL was one of the many organizations whose official tax-exempt recognition was delayed by the leftwing Lois Lerner IRS and subsequently attacked by the Postal Service. This malicious, February 7 BBB smear, and the BBB’s participating in the spreading of misleading information about VIDOL — because it is otherwise so objectively false and misleading — “smells” to be an extension of that bias against conservative, patriotic organizations, but through other large institutions that have power and influence over tax-exempt organizations. The BBB is supposed to review charities, not advocacy organizations, so its attack on VIDOL “smells” even more suspicious. The BBB is engaging in misleading and fraudulent tactics that it purports its mission is to expose.
This memo sets forth just some of the reasons why the BBB’s release and conduct is reprehensible, reckless, and defamatory. It quotes the BBB’s February 7 hit-piece release, followed by the truth.
- MATERIALLY AND RECKLESSLY MISLEADING: “According to information the group filed with the Internal Revenue Service, very little of the money it collects goes to veterans either.”
VIDOL is a tax-exempt advocacy and grassroots lobbying organization under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 501(c)(4). It is not a “charity” under IRC 501(c)(3) created to disburse funds to veterans. ALL of its educational and informational advocacy and fundraising materials are consistent with its mission, and NONE say that VIDOL is created to disburse money to veterans.
Its website, at vidolamerica.org, states its mission (http://vidolamerica.org/our- mission/) to educate and inform. ALL of is mailings provide educational and informational information about the plight of veterans.
That the BBB materially misrepresented the mission of VIDOL not only violates the BBB’s national standards of evaluating charities, but demonstrates it is not competent enough to distinguish the very different roles of 501(c)(4) organizations from 501(c)(3) charities.
- FALSE: “Fundraisers kept more than 94 percent of money raised for Veterans in Defense of Liberty in 2014 and 2015.”
The agency that prepares VIDOL’s national grassroots direct mail newsletters, American Target Advertising (ATA), is America’s oldest and largest cause- related marketing agency. In 2014 and 2015, ATA was paid less than five percent and less than 20 percent, respectively far below and within the industry standards.
This information is front and center on VIDOL’s Form 990s filed with the IRS.
That the BBB reports “Fundraisers kept more than 94 percent of the money” is not only grossly and recklessly false, it demonstrates the BBB is unqualified to:
(1) read a Form 990, and (2) inform the public about matters involving fundraising.
- FALSE: “American Target Advertising of Manassas, Va., retained $498,316 of
$517,048 donated to Veterans in Defense of Liberty in 2014. The following year, the business retained $525,468 out of $555,764 it collected on behalf of Veterans in Defense of Liberty.”
See # 2 above. VIDOL paid the costs of its national direct mail marketing and grassroots advocacy program. As an example of why it is recklessly false for the BBB to say ATA “retained” that much money, nearly 30 percent of the costs were postage paid to the U.S. Postal Service. Other costs include printing and processing the mail, none of which was done by ATA, but was done by third parties that were paid by VIDOL.
Also, see # 1 above. The BBB’s incompetence extends to what is well-settled First Amendment law about the costs of fundraising and advocacy, and ignores the BBB’s national standards: “Through these standards, we seek to ensure that the charity is financially transparent and spends its funds in accordance with its mission and donor expectations.
TRUE: “At the end of the mailer Veterans in Defense of Liberty sent, the group wrote in bold letters ‘NO donation to Veterans in Defense of Liberty EVER goes toward paying for ANY sweepstakes prize.’”
Neither any donations to VIDOL nor VIDOL’s revenues from any other sources pays for the sweepstakes prizes.
DECEPTIVE AND ULTRA VIRES (beyond its mission): “Veterans in Defense of Liberty has an ‘F’ rating, the lowest on BBB’s scale.”
The BBB’s rating system is established for charities, not 501(c)(4) grassroots advocacy and lobbying organizations. The BBB’s own Standards for Charity Accountability focus expressly on charities. VIDOL is not a charity, and should not have been reviewed.
The bias in the BBB’s system is exemplified in its review of a liberal organization that the Capital Research Center called “ACORN’s Rival in Shakedown Tactics,” the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA). The BBB wrote of NACA:
This 501(c)4 organization has a BBB Rating of No Rating because this is is (sic) not a business. BBB only issues a BBB rating on a business. This organization is also not a charity and therefore BBB would not issue a BBB Charity Report.
The BBB seems to clearly have a double standard for conservative versus liberal organizations.
No marketing or fundraising materials issued by VIDOL states that it is raising money to disburse to veterans, which would be a mission of a charitable organization.
The start-up costs of developing a large, national advocacy program are substantial, especially when an organization employs direct mail. The VIDOL program startup costs were not financed by billionaires, unions, corporations, or grants from foundations, but rely on the small-dollar donations from everyday Americans who wish to rally around the causes of the Constitution, the Flag, decent and respectful treatment of our veterans, and other basic patriotic causes.
The February 7 release issued by the BBB is a false, misleading, reckless, unverified, and professionally incompetent attack on VIDOL. The BBB should: retract their Press release, with an apology and release to all entities to which it was originally sent; correct the F rating; terminate the employment of those involved in this smear.
This unfair and malicious attack with reckless disregard to the truth is more than an attack on Veterans in Defense of Liberty – it is an attack on every American veterans who swore a non-expiring oath. That is what Veterans in Defense of Liberty honors; it honors the oath every veteran swore to uphold.
Considering the nature of our mailing’s program which: alerts people to Constitutional principles and violation; asks that they sign petitions to Congress; engages in other types of advocacy work. It is easy to see that this is also an attack on the Freedom of Speech.