The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps spent $652,000 last year putting civilian volunteers on the U.S.-Mexico border in its call for better border security, about $51,000 less than it collected in donations and registration fees, according to federal records.
The organization's second Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 report since its creation in April 2005 as a 501(c)4 tax-exempt charitable trust was a departure from last year, when MCDC — then under fire for a lack of financial accountability — spent $450,000, or $31,000 more than it collected.
Questions over the organization's finances and its involvement in a controversial fence project led to the resignation of several top MCDC members and to the termination of others who challenged the group's leadership. Several splinter groups have since been created, although MCDC President Chris Simcox still claims a membership of 350,000 volunteers and supporters.
Carmen Mercer, MCDC's vice president and chief financial officer, said 79 percent of the donations and registration fees went to program expenditures, including computer and Web site expenses, e-mail and ad campaigns, field supplies, operating expenses, and advocacy and program services. She said 21 percent went to pay for administrative and fundraising expenses.
"There are really no alternative interpretations of these financial numbers," she said. "We believe, we have done a very good job. We always look forward to doing a better job in the years to come."
But Stacey O'Connell, former MCDC Arizona state chapter director who is now a member of the Patriot's Border Alliance, a separate Minuteman-style organization, said the money listed in the new 990 filing does not match claims by Mr. Simcox on how much MCDC has actually collected.
Mr. O'Connell said that in past interviews, Mr. Simcox said the organization had collected $600,000 in donations in its first year, along with $1.6 million for a border fence MCDC is building. He said he also is aware of a single $100,000 donation given by an Arizona man. He later filed a fraud lawsuit against MCDC that has since been withdrawn because of a lack of funds to pursue it.
"After reviewing the Minuteman Foundation 990 from 2006, it appears well below the donation amounts Simcox has claimed in the past," Mr. O'Connell said. "Many of us, perhaps thousands of volunteers and supporters, have donated not only to MCDC but to the fence project as well.
"Many of us also feel that the lack of cooperation in showing where the money goes, how it is spent; that there is something very wrong within the organization," he said.
MCDC, on its Web page, said donations have been "used wisely and effectively, and have focused the nation on illegal immigration," saying it "cannot ... accept responsibility for conspiratorial, disruptive and inappropriate speculations about MCDC organizational process and finances, nor will we waste precious time or resources upon those who refuse to accept the IRS nonprofit organization financial accountability standards."
In April 2006, Mr. Simcox told The Washington Times that MCDC would build a state-of-the-art security fence on the Southwest border and had raised more than $200,000 in donations to begin the project in Arizona. He said the project would include separate, 14-foot-high fences on both sides of the border, separated by a roadway to allow the passage of U.S. Border Patrol vehicles, with surveillance cameras and motion sensors.
In addition, it would be 40 to 50 yards wide, with coiled barbed wire stacked 8 feet high on each perimeter and would include a ditch to prevent vehicles from approaching.
Since that announcement, MCDC has built about 11 miles of fencing, a five-strand barbed-wire range fence.