Tuesday, December 5, 2006

One of the charitable organizations cited by Minuteman Civil Defense Corps boss Chris Simcox on why financial accountability concerns raised by some corps members were unfounded has been fined for failing to keep its own financial records in order, The Washington Times has learned.

The Declaration Foundation, a tax-exempt charity created by conservative activist Alan Keyes, who has vigorously supported the Minuteman movement, was fined $6,500 in August and prohibited by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Charitable Organizations from soliciting donations until it becomes “properly registered.”

The Aug. 18 “agreement and order,” signed by Declaration Foundation Executive Director Mary Parker Lewis, a top Minuteman adviser, acknowledged that the charity made false statements in seeking to solicit donations, failed to properly administer money it had collected, and withheld documents sought as part of an “investigative subpoena.”

According to the bureau, the Declaration Foundation failed over a four-year period to submit audited financial statements, gave false information when it said it did not share revenue with other nonprofit or tax-exempt groups, and misstated the truth when it said none of its officers or employees was tied to any vendor providing services or goods.

The bureau said the Declaration Foundation improperly shared revenue with the Declaration Alliance, another tax-exempt charity founded by Mr. Keyes, which also has been active in overseeing the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC).

The Declaration Foundation is at the center of an intricate weave of conservative organizations founded by Mr. Keyes or tied to longtime Keyes associates now working with MCDC. They have served as mentors for Mr. Simcox and provided consulting and financial services for the group’s fundraising and media activities.

According to Internal Revenue Service records, the Declaration Foundation reported more than $600,000 in contributions over the past two years and the Declaration Alliance, in its 2004 IRS filing, the latest available, reported more than $1.7 million in donations. The two organizations list the same Reston, Va., address as its place of business.

MCDC describes itself as a “project” of the Declaration Alliance. The Minuteman political action committee, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions this year, is formally known as the Declaration Alliance Minuteman Civil Defense Corps Political Action Committee, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Connie Hair, spokeswoman for MCDC and Mr. Keyes, said she had been asked not to talk with The Times.

Mr. Simcox did not respond to e-mails concerning the Pennsylvania order.

But Mr. Simcox, who co-founded the Minuteman movement in April 2005, has told The Times and said on the Minuteman Web page that the Declaration groups offered “an experienced organization for mass mailings, advertising and public relations” and the ability to conduct a “fully accredited and independent audit” of MCDC finances.

He said he had “complete confidence in the professional firms we have retained to perform fiduciary responsibility and accounting for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps” and that he had “checked these people out very carefully before agreeing to work with them.” In a July interview, he accused his critics of being racists and disgruntled former MCDC members.

Mr. Keyes and his supporters have been tagged in the past on suspected violations involving contributions, including a December 2002 finding by the Federal Election Commission that said his 2000 presidential campaign owed the government more than $220,000 for questionable contributions, nonqualified expenses, improperly handled checks and other ineligible expenses.

Mrs. Lewis, who signed off on the Pennsylvania agreement and order, served as chief of staff to the Keyes 2000 campaign.

Several current and former MCDC members have questioned the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations collected since the Minuteman movement began in April 2005.

In interviews this week, they said the organization’s first IRS filing as a 501(c)4 tax-exempt charity on Nov. 15 failed to answer many of their concerns. They said, for example, there was no accounting in the new filing for at least $150,000 in the $50 registration fees required of the 4,000 Minuteman volunteers.

Others questioned why the IRS financial statement included mention of the construction of a border fence, since the filing listed MCDC contributions and expenditures only for 2005. They noted that Mr. Simcox began the fence project in April 2006.

In a statement posted on the MCDC Web site, the group’s board of directors, which Mr. Simcox heads, decided that “this year and this year only” it would make public the organization’s financial records. The statement did not address the fact nonprofit organizations such as MCDC are required to file annual financial statements, which are available to the public.

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