Tue 4th March 2008, 12:41pm
QUOTE(Somey @ Tue 4th March 2008, 2:43am)
I'm not sure there's an analogue to the UK Charity Commission in the United States - rather, the IRS, and to a lesser extent state-government tax agencies, handle almost all issues regarding use and misuse of charitable contributions, and whether or not an organization qualifies for charitable status. And generally speaking, their definition of what's acceptable seems to be a lot broader than the UK's definition. That inevitably leads to more scandals, but I guess the theory is that it's better to have scandals than to destroy people's faith in the system.
As for the auditor(s) themselves, I doubt they have anything to worry about - at least as long as they can plausibly claim that they weren't lying on the WMF's behalf, and I can't imagine the WMF managing to get a reputable auditor to do that for them. (That doesn't mean the WMF didn't try to mislead the auditors in some way, of course
- and it's not like they could expected to conduct some sort of heroic super-sleuth investigation of their own client in order to bring them into disrepute... that's certainly not what they're hired for, obviously.)
So if anything is going to happen to the foundation's charitable status (which I personally have always considered rather bogus), it's going to require not only a lot of number-crunching with a limited set of figures (basically their public financial reports and tax returns only), but also a US-based person or group willing to go to the trouble and expense of registering a formal complaint with the IRS. I don't see the IRS initiating something like that on their own, unless the number of sex scandals reaches some completely unreasonable number, whatever that might be. Ten? Twenty?What would be involved in registering such a complaint, anyway?
I mean, if it's just a matter of filling out the appropriate forms...
Regarding misleading the auditors, see this post
. Neither of the CPAs who prepared the 2004 and 2005 Form 990's for the IRS have responded to my inquiries why they didn't properly indicate that 60% of the Board of Directors were related to one another through a business relationship that, by law, should have been declared. I suspect that they are praying I just "go away".
As for registering a complaint, there are two avenues that I exercised back in 2007. Maybe they will be more receptive now (in light of this media-fueled scandal) if others were to try it themselves.
First, is the Federal route, Form 3949-A
. My past focus had been on trying to get them to look into the WMF, but I believe the better avenue for success would be to have them look into Jimmy Wales' personal income, since he's had such a problem with submitting receipts properly, I can't imagine he's declaring income properly.
The second route is to contact the Florida Consumer Affairs
office. In 2006, I worked with Frank Roycraft (850-410-3693 or email@example.com) to determine whether the WMF (as represented by Wales and Patrick) were unethically using their website to defame my small business. Roycraft wasn't that aggressive (he'd never even heard of Wikipedia before), but he did get fairly steamed that Brad Patrick did not issue a response to the State in the requested allocated time frame. Roycraft had mentioned that getting the Foundation de-listed in Florida is a difficult process, handled by the state's Attorney General's office. Now that WMF is in San Francisco, this may be impossible, anyway.
Some other organizations one might contact for advice: FANO
I'm not going to pursue any of these, since I've already established my reputation as a gadfly. I think it would be more meaningful if several of you WR readers would file your own complaints -- namely, the IRS Form 3949-A is probably the best way to go, and you can even submit anonymously.