Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Minuteman scam

The growing rift in the ranks of the Minutemen (first reported here) driven in part by the activities of the consulting firm responsible for Chris Simcox's remarkable makeover is now going public.

And you know that it's a serious rift when the report appears in The Washington Times, which has a long history of running article supportive of the Minutemen:
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.

As so often happens when right-wing scamsters are caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they've continually promised to provide a full accounting and then, of course, never do:
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.

And note how they dismiss their internal critics: Why, these folks are just the racists and bigots we've been trying to weed out!
Several other Minuteman members question why Mr. Keyes' organization is involved in collecting MCDC donations, saying donations to the movement should be handled by the Minuteman leadership, who could be directly responsible for it.

Mr. Keyes has financially endorsed and supported the Minuteman organization as programs of Declaration Alliance and the Declaration Foundation, another Virginia-based charitable organization that he heads. He accused internal MCDC critics of being "decidedly racist and anti-Semitic," saying they had been removed as members of the Minuteman organization.

"I personally applaud Chris Simcox for his diligent adherence to a rigorous standard that weeds out bigots from the upstanding, patriotic mainstream Americans who participate in the Minuteman citizens' border watch effort that I am proud to support," he said.

Mr. Keyes said that MCDC is in the process of applying to the IRS for nonprofit status and that those responsible are "adhering to all relevant federal regulations." He called concerns over finances and accountability "groundless," saying they were being "bandied about by members of anti-immigrant and racialist groups, and other unsavory fringe elements attempting to hijack the border security debate to further their individual agendas."

By smearing his critics without any supporting evidence, of course, Keyes is conveniently diverting attention from the substance of the questions. And well he should. After all, he is part of the same group of businessmen, headed by Philip Sheldon, that operates both Diener Consulting -- with whom Simcox has a contract -- and Response Unlimited, the mailing firm that, as I explained previously, was making use of Minutemen donors' contact information.

The Minutemen, it's clear, are becoming very profitable indeed, even if their fence projects don't go so well. For a few people, at least.

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