It was one thing to read the expected news that Halliburton has been hired for storm cleanup in Louisiana and Mississippi. But now this:
FEMA Directing Donations To Rev. Pat Robertson
FEMA is directing Katrina donations to none other than the Rev. Pat Robertson …
Millions of Americans and people around the world have rushed to donate money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which is shaping up to be one of the worst U.S. disasters in history, if not the worst.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is the lead federal agency in the rescue & recovery operation at work in New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf coast.
FEMA has released to the media and on its Web site a list of suggested charities to help the storm’s hundreds of thousands of victims. The Red Cross is first on the list.
The Rev. Pat Robertson’s “Operation Blessing” is next [third] on the list. (Ranking and link corrected.)
The chairman, “MG Robertson,” is none other than the Rev. Pat — Marion Gordon Robertson is his real name — while Pat’s wife DeDe is vice president and son Gordon Robertson is also on the board.
The front operation for the radical, pro-assassination televangelist and Republican power broker is also based in the Rev. Pat’s headquarters, Virginia Beach.
Robertson’s shell organizations have already collected more than $25 million from the federal government under various “faith based” federal-handout programs. And with millions of distraught citizens looking to FEMA for help in finding reputable organizations to help Katrina survivors, Robertson stands to profit magnificently from the horror that has fallen on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Now, you might want to give Pat Robertson the Benefit of the doubt. Though his anti-abortion here, pro-abortion there, pro-assassination opinions might alienate some people to the left of Genghis Khan, maybe he could do some good for the thousands of hurricane victims. Well think again (via Sploid):
According to its Web site, the mission of Operation Blessing International (OBI) "is to demonstrate God's love by alleviating human need and suffering in the United States and around the world." Founded in 1978 by Pat Robertson, the organization "was originally set up to help struggling individuals and families by matching their needs for items such as clothing, appliances, vehicles with donated items from viewers of The 700 Club." In 1986, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation (OBI) was formed as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to handle international relief projects. In 1993, all Operation Blessing activities were transferred to OBI.
While OBI trumpets its work at home and abroad through its Web site, other sources provide a more nuanced picture. In 1996, the Norfolk, Va.-based Virginia-Pilot newspaper reported that two pilots who were hired by the charity to fly humanitarian aid to Zaire in 1994 were used almost exclusively for Robertson's diamond mining operations (emphasis added). Chief pilot Robert Hinkle, claimed that in the six months he flew for Operation Blessing, only one or two of more than 40 flights were humanitarian -- the rest carried mining equipment. OBI resources were being diverted to support the African Development Co., a private corporation run by Robertson. At the time, Robertson also had a special relationship with Zaire's late dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko.
"My first impression when I took the job was that we'd be called Operation Blessing and we'd be doing humanitarian work," Hinkle, a former Peace Corps volunteer, told the Virginia-Pilot. "We got over there and 'Operation Blessing' was painted on the tails of the airplanes, but we were doing no humanitarian relief at all. We were just supplying the miners and flying the dredges from Kinshasa out to Tshikapa."(Emphasis added.)
At first, an OPI spokesperson denied the charges by the Virginia Pilot. Later, however, a written statement from the group admitted Robertson's mining company used Operation Blessing planes "from time to time," but that most air missions in Zaire were for humanitarian or training purposes. "For example, medicine was transported to some 17 clinics in Zaire," the spokesman told the paper. Hinkle called the OPI statement "a clear-cut lie."
There's this and other examples in the TomPaine.com article of gross corruption in Operation Blessing missions. There is also more fundamental organizational corruption:
Advocates for government funding of faith-based organizations argue that religious groups dispense services more quickly than the government and have dramatically lower administrative overhead. In the course of investigating the accuracy of this claim, [Charles] Henderson examined tax returns for Operation Blessing and found that its administrative expenses far exceeded the zero to 10 percent claimed by faith-based supporters.
Henderson, who is also the executive director of CrossCurrents, an interfaith organization and magazine, points out that out of a total OPI budget of $36 million in 1999, administrative costs were over $11 million -- a far cry from 10 percent. Twenty-five million dollars remained for "services to individuals and organizations."
Digging further, Henderson discovered that the remaining $25 million did not go to individuals, but rather "to 'organizations' that are providing the actual services to individuals. Here, Henderson explains in his article, "Fraud In The Name Of God", "the trail becomes murky as one would have to follow the money through the finances of each of these organizations to find out what percentage of their income, including the income from Operation Blessing, goes for administration."
Henderson goes on to "wager that an additional percentage -- if they are as 'efficient' as Operation Blessing itself the figure would be 30 percent -- is sliced off the top of the money they receive from Operation Blessing to pay for their administrative expenses. That being the case, we would have about half of all donations to Operation Blessing reaching those who are truly needy" (emphasis added).
How about a little justice in the name of God?
(Thanks to Joyce L. for passing this one on...)
It appears FEMA has removed Operation Blessing from the Katrina Donations page—on a Saturday, no less. Hmmm. I wonder how that happened. Three points for the lefty blogosphere. Well maybe only two points, since they are still taking donations on the Operation Blessing website. In fact that seems to be all Operation Blessing is about right now...
Just in case you don't believe me about the FEMA site, here's the google cache of how it looked before they changed the page.