Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Times Investigation with CIR and CNN
America's Worst Charities
Part 1

Dirty Secrets of the Worst Charities

The 50 worst have raised more than $1 billion in the past 10 years, but only a fraction went to anyone other than the charities’ operators and professional solicitors.

Part 3

June 13: The Reynolds Family Empire

Operating in multiple states, one family has created a lucrative network of bad charities. In a recent year, family members took nearly $1 million in salaries while giving away a pittance in cash.

Part 2

A Failure of Regulation

Unscrupulous operators collect hundreds of millions of dollars each year while fooling donors. When they get caught, they have little to fear even if regulators try to shut them down.

Interactive Tools
  • Use our interactive database to see who really benefits from the 50 worst charities in America.
  • Explore our one-of-a-kind national database of charities and fundraisers that have been cited by state regulators.
  • Have you received a solicitation from a questionable charity? Fill out our online form and we’ll investigate.
Part 4

They Never Let Up

One telemarketing company's aggressive tactics show how wasteful charities make millions from easy targets.

She’s a Fundraising Machine

When Amanda Thomas calls for charity, she never stutters. She never deviates from the script. Here's why.

Additional Coverage
  1. Here’s where Cancer Fund of America donations went while dying kids got Little Debbie snack cakes

    | Civil | By Susan Taylor Martin, Times Senior Correspondent
    In its pitch to donors, Cancer Fund of America touted "direct patient aid'' as one of the many ways it helped tens of thousands of Americans struggling with deadly disease.

    Cancer Fund of America president James Reynolds, Sr., in his office in Powell, Tenn., Dec. 29, 2009.

  1. Federal report says IRS could do more to regulate charities

    | Corporate | By Chris Davis and Michael LaForgia, Times Staff Writers
    The IRS doesn't have the manpower to go after charities that flout the law, and it could do more to help state regulators target crooked operators, according to a federal watchdog report made public today.

    Isolated hundred dollar cancer ribbon on a white background.

  1. Charity fundraiser Quadriga Art agrees to $25 million settlement

    | Civil | By Kendall Taggart, Center for Investigative Reporting
    A fundraiser for some of America's worst charities has agreed to a $25 million settlement with New York regulators to resolve allegations that the company misled potential donors and failed to disclose conflicts of interest.


  1. New law will give regulators more oversight of charities

    | Business | By Kris Hundley, Times Staff Writer
    Telemarketers with criminal backgrounds will no longer be able to call Floridians for charitable donations.

    This telephone line in the Iowa Attorney General’s office is answered by a staff member who records telemarketers’ pitches. The recordings can later be used to bring lawsuits against charities and telemarketers for making misleading statements.

  1. Lawmakers agree on legislation to crack down on fraud by Florida charities

    | Gubernatorial | By Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
    TALLAHASSEE — The Senate and House struck agreement Tuesday on legislation to crack down on fraud by Florida charities after agreeing to drop a proposed $50 application fee for criminal background checks on solicitors.


  1. Newspaper report triggers investigation and fine for charity consultant

    | Business | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart
    New York regulators fined a telemarketing consultant for some of America's worst charities $50,000 on Wednesday after officials determined he had violated a lifetime ban on raising money there.

    Telemarketing consultant Mark Gelvan was fined $50,000 for violating a ban on fundraising.

  1. Overhaul of Florida charities law seems headed for passage

    | State Roundup | By Tia Mitchell, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
    TALLAHASSEE — A sweeping charities reform package is breezing through the Legislature despite earlier concerns that legitimate philanthropies might be harmed by new rules.


  1. Large telemarketer for charities declares bankruptcy

    | Business | By Kris Hundley, Staff writer
    One of the nation's largest charity telemarketing firms filed for bankruptcy Thursday.


  1. No accounting for $40 million in charity shipped overseas

    | Business | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart, Times/CIR
    GUATEMALA CITY — In 2010, one of Central America's poorest countries received huge shipments of humanitarian aid from an unlikely source.

    The Order of Malta’s warehouse is about a 45-minute drive outside Guatemala City. But CNN’s reporters were not allowed into the property and representatives of the Order declined numerous requests for interviews.

  1. United Way Suncoast CEO Diana Baker retiring at end of year

    | Business | Times Staff
    United Way Suncoast chief executive and president Diana Baker plans to retire at the end of 2014 after 14 years as CEO and 35 years at the regional organization. A champion of regionalism, Baker streamlined the organization in 2012, merging the United Ways of Tampa Bay and Sarasota to create United Way Suncoast. Ten …


  1. One telemarketing company's aggressive tactics show how wasteful charities make millions from easy targets.

    | Civil | By Kendall Taggart and Kris Hundley, Times/CIR
    Judith Johnson of Stacyville, Iowa, doesn't get out much anymore. Legally blind and living on a small Social Security pension, the 72-year-old used to go to church once a week. She stopped out of …

    Of the telemarketers who call her, Sonja Molitor of Waukon, Iowa, says: “Sometimes it’s easier to give them $10 and be able to get them off the line than listen to all the reasons you should give.”

  1. Editorial: Florida needs to toughen charity laws

    | Editorials |
    This week's arrest of four Florida men accused of hiring felons to solicit donations for a dubious charity in the name of fallen police officers is a step in the right direction toward protecting donors and reputable charities. But the minimal penalty the suspects will face if convicted is a reminder of just how much …


  1. Investigators say police charity hired felons to raise donations

    | News | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart, Times/CIR
    Police Protective Fund raises millions of dollars each year in the name of fallen officers.

    Investigators with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services gather Tuesday outside the Police Protective Fund location at 1080 Kapp Drive in Clearwater.

  1. Putnam’s plan to stop bad charities in Florida

    | Editorials |
    Florida is home to 11 of the worst 50 charities in the country, which too often take people's money, then enrich their executives and fundraisers but spend little on the charity's ostensible cause. It is a multimillion dollar legal fleecing that Adam Putnam, Florida's commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, …

    Adam Putnam called a bad charity a “black eye on the state.”

  1. Let It Ring: When the phone rings and a dubious charity asks for money, you can thank free-speech lawyer Errol Copilevitz for the call

    | News | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart, Times/CIR Special Report
    Errol Copilevitz started his legal career representing strip clubs and porn shops on the seedy side of Kansas City.

    Investigators with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services gather Tuesday outside the Police Protective Fund location at 1080 Kapp Drive in Clearwater.

  1. Florida’s top charity regulator considers reforms

    | News | By Kris Hundley, Times Staff Writer
    ST. PETERSBURG — Florida's top charity regulator said Friday he will push for sweeping reforms to crack down on charities that spend most of their money on professional solicitors instead of people in need.

    Adam Putnam called a bad charity a “black eye on the state.”

  1. Former Kids Wish Network employees say they misled charitable donors

    | News | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart, Times/CIR Special Report
    Former employees of Kids Wish Network say the Holiday-based charity exploits sick and dying children to raise cash, then misleads donors about where their money goes.

    CNN reporter Drew Griffin knocks on the door of Kids Wish Network in Holiday as Orlando Ruiz, left, shoots video last week.

  1. 'Breaking Bad' fundraiser funnels chash to one of America’ worst charities

    | Business | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart, Times/CIR Special Report
    EDITOR’S NOTE: "America's Worst Charities" is the result of a yearlong collaboration between the Tampa Bay Times and the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, the nation’s largest and longest serving nonprofit newsroom dedicated to watchdog journalism. CNN joined the partnership in March. …

    Skyler and Walter White, played by Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston, survey a mountain of cash in a storage locker on an episode in the fifth season of "Breaking Bad."

  1. Wounded Warrior Project spends 58% of donations on verterans programs

    | Business | By Kris Hundley, Times Staff Writer
    Editor's note: As part of a yearlong investigation into charities across the nation, the Tampa Bay Times and its reporting partner, the Center for Investigative Reporting, asked readers in June to suggest nonprofits for closer review. Readers responded with nearly 300 suggestions. In the coming months, the …


  1. In wake of report, charities come under increased scrutiny

    | Business | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart
    America's worst charities have come under renewed scrutiny following a series by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting that ranked organizations based on how much they spent on professional solicitation companies over the past decade.

    Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, says he intends to meet with officials to discuss legislation of nonprofits.

  1. Intricate family connections bind several of America’s worst charities

    | Business | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart, Times/CIR Special Report
    Carol Smith still gets angry when she remembers the box that arrived by mail for her dying husband.

    James T. Reynolds Sr. looks at a bulletin board covered in photos of cancer patients he says received assistance from Cancer Fund of America. Over the past decade, the charity has received nearly $100 million, but only 2 percent of that has gone to directly help cancer patients.

  1. Lack of regulation and meager penalties allow worst charities to thrive

    | Business | BY Kendall Taggart and Kris Hundley, Times/CIR special report
    Four years ago, charity regulators in 38 states banded together to take down one of the most deceptive charity solicitors in America.

    Investigators with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services gather Tuesday outside the Police Protective Fund location at 1080 Kapp Drive in Clearwater.

  1. America’s 50 worst charities rake in nearly $1 billion for corporate fundraisers

    | Business | By Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart, Times/CIR special report
    The worst charity in America operates from a metal warehouse behind a gas station in Holiday.

    Dream Giveaway’s Mark Breiner, left, walks with WorldCause Foundation’s Robert A. Preston Jr. at the Mustang Memories Car Show in Dearborn, Mich., on Aug. 12, 2012. WorldCause Foundation has paid Breiner’s companies to run similar car givaways.

  1. Here’s how you can avoid bad charities

    | Business | Times/CIR special report
    FIND OUT EXACTLY WHO'S CALLING
    Ask if the caller is a paid telemarketer. Get the exact name and location of the charity he or she represents. Beware of charities that mimic the names of well-established groups and of claims that you've given before to a charity you've never heard of.


  1. How we identified America’s 50 worst charities

    | Business | By Kendall Taggart and Kris Hundley, Times/CIR special report
    The United States is home to roughly 1.6 million tax-exempt organizations.

    THE WORST OF THE WORST Kids Wish Network of Holiday, No. 1 on the Tampa Bay Times-Center for Investigative Reporting list of 50 worst charities, last year raised $18.6 million and spent just $240,000 -- 1 percent -- granting wishes.

  1. Extreme Makeover star Ty Pennington leads RNC delegates in building (half) a house

    | Politics | By Patti Ewald, Times Staff Writer
    TAMPA
    If you build it, they will help.
    That's what design guru Ty Pennington and his support crew found out Tuesday as delegates to the Republican National Convention climbed off buses, donned hard hats and picked up hammers, paint brushes, pipe wrenches and other tools to build half a house. …

    Ty Pennington, left, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talk before work begins on half a house in Tampa on Tuesday.