Minutemen not watching over funds

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A growing number of Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leaders and volunteers are questioning the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars in donations collected in the past 15 months, challenging the organization’s leadership over financial accountability.

Many of the group’s most active members say they have no idea how much money has been collected as part of its effort to stop illegal entry — primarily along the U.S.-Mexico border, what it has been spent on or why it has been funneled through a Virginia-based charity headed by conservative Alan Keyes.

Several of the group’s top lieutenants have either quit or are threatening to do so, saying requests to Minuteman President Chris Simcox for a financial accounting have been ignored.

Other Minuteman members said money promised for food, fuel, radios, computers, tents, night-vision scopes, binoculars, porta-potties and other necessary equipment and supplies never reached volunteers who have manned observation posts to spot and report illegal border crossers.

Gary Cole, the Minutemen’s former national director of operations, was chief liaison to the national press corps during the group’s April 2005 border watch in Arizona. He was one of the first to raise questions about MCDC finances. He personally collected “tens of thousands of dollars” in donations during the 30-day border vigil. But despite numerous requests — many directly to Mr. Simcox — he was never told how much money had been collected or where it went.

“This movement is much too important to be lost over a question of finances,” Mr. Cole said. “We can’t demand that the government be held accountable for failing to control the border if we can’t hold ourselves accountable for the people’s money. It’s as simple as that.”

Mr. Cole said he was removed by Mr. Simcox as a national director after the April 2005 border campaign “for asking too many questions about the money,” but he returned in October and again in April of this year to help locate and man observations posts for the Minuteman border watch in New Mexico.

“I didn’t want the thing to fail because it is much too important, so I came back to help out,” said Mr. Cole, who spent five months on the Arizona and New Mexico borders living out of a camper on the back of his pickup. “But that doesn’t mean my concern went away.”

Absent accounting

Mr. Simcox, in an interview last week with The Washington Times, estimated that about $1.6 million in donations have been collected, all of it handled through the Herndon-based Declaration Alliance, founded and chaired by Mr. Keyes. He said the donations, solicited on the group’s Web site and during cross-country appearances, included $1 million directly to MCDC and $600,000 for a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Mr. Simcox’s numbers could not be independently verified, including claims in a 3,961-word statement issued after the interview that he spent $160,000 on “our last two monthlong border-watch operations.”

The Minuteman organization has not made any financial statements or fundraising records public since its April 2005 creation. It also has sought and received extensions of its federal reporting requirements and has not given the Minuteman leadership, its volunteers or donors any official accounting. A financial statement promised to The Times by Mr. Simcox for May was never delivered.

“I agree that the Minuteman volunteers and those who donated money to us have a right to know how much has been collected and on what it has been spent, and I know there is a lot of concern in the ranks regarding finances,” Mr. Simcox told The Times. “That’s why I sought capable accountants to get those answers, and I intend to make them public as soon as they are available.

“I can’t wait for the final audit to answer and embarrass our critics, those who have tried to destroy this organization,” he said, blaming the concern about his leadership and accountability on open borders and anti-rule of law lobbyists, racists and “those who were terminated from MCDC for violating our code of conduct.”

In the statement, Mr. Simcox said that a “fully accredited, independent auditor” had begun an accounting of income and expenses and that a final audit would be delivered to the Internal Revenue Service by Nov. 15. It also said MCDC financial operations are overseen by professional banking institutions, accountants, auditors and lawyers, none of whom was identified.

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