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Move America Forward Responds to ProPublica Allegations

For those of you who may have missed this story, the ultra-liberal hit squad ProPublica published a piece last week accusing pro-troop charity Move America Forward essentially of acting as a slush fund for certain TEA Party activists and bilking donors of money. Many folks, particularly in the establishment wing of the party, crowed about this piece as further evidence of what Steve LaTourette alleged about the TEA Party orgs in terms of being grifters.

This one story is but a small part of a coordinated attack by leftists and establishment Republicans that is intended to destroy the ability of TEA Party orgs to raise money. We covered those attacks extensively last week, including my own analysis of the weakness of these particular allegations. However, possibly the best explanation for what is going on here was offered by Ace of Spades:

I fear that stories like this one, left in doubt in the minds of conservatives, will remain in a state of being half-believed and half-disbelieved — and that will tend to weaken the movement overall.

Not to mention the very strong possibility that many will just react to this state of unknowing by saying, “Ah, well, they’re all corrupt; I won’t donate to any of these charities or political operations,” which is certainly the worst possible outcome (as far as the political aspirations of the movement).

Make no mistake: this is exactly the intended outcome for both ProPublica and the establishment types pushing this story. That is why I have continued to push for skepticism about the story itself even in the face of numerous conservatives who I know and trust telling me that some of the players in this specific story aren’t as trustworthy as they should be. That is, to me, failing to see the forest for the trees. The intended result here is collateral damage on the movement as a whole and we should not allow that to happen in the absence of proof that is much more substantiated than the garbage set forth by ProPublica.

Over the weekend, Moving America Forward put together a lengthy response to each of the allegations in the ProPublica piece. I think their willingness to go on the record in this level of detail speaks well of them as an organization. I will include their response in full below and you can decide what to think about this story in light of these explanations:

Dear Red State,

 

Thank you for taking a look at our responses to the allegations in the Pro Publica hit piece. Our charity has done some amazing things and we have a lot of soldiers in combat that are relying on us, so we don’t want some liberal hack to prevent us from fulfilling our mission.

 

ProPublica is a left-wing media outlet that receives funding from George Soros and an assortment of other prominent liberal millionaires.  You can read this write up on them to see how bad they really are: http://washingtonexaminer.com/propublica-is-the-lefts-biggest-muckraker-you-never-heard-of/article/40675

 

ProPublica has attacked Gov. Sarah Palin, Charles and David Koch, groups like Freedom Path, Americans for Responsible Leadership, and Center to Protect Patient Rights. They defended the IRS practice of targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups with whom they disagree.  Worse, they have such a cozy relationship with the Lois Lerner wing of the IRS that they were given confidential tax information on Tea Party groups to leak to the public. The IRS knew that ProPublica was exactly the type of outlet that could use such information to smear and attack conservative organizations.

 

In the article, Kim Barker strings together unrelated half-truths, and then implies there is something wrong. In some cases they resort to outright lies and ignore information contrary to their narrative. Here are some examples. If you need clarification or have further questions about anything below, please just let us know.

 

1.                   “Pro Publica distorts the relationship between organizations and their consultants,” – Scott Raab

 

They claimed that MAF funnels ‘millions’ to the tea party, but they never make that case in the article. They erroneously say that Sal Russo, our consultant, was paid millions through his private firm, while not pointing out that it was reimbursement for expenses. Nonetheless, his private firm is not the tea party.

 

“The report creates a horrible accusation that our consultant earned $2.3 million over the last five years.  That’s ridiculous. They made a baseless accusation that consultant fees might be for TV advertisement, then lambast us for not having run any TV ads since 2012. We never claimed that payments to our consultants were fees or costs for placing ads in the first place, so this attack makes no sense,” said Scott Raab, Director of Outreach for Move America Forward.

 

“In truth, payments to our consultants are simply reimbursements for purchases of products for the care packages.” says Raab. “In the past, we could not get sufficient financial credit so for the last 10 years we used our consultants’ credit card to pay for items in the care packages and we had to reimburse them. We eventually obtained our own American Express card, however, we still are required to rely on the creditworthiness of our consultant.

 

The highest salary at Move America Forward is $60,000 a year – far less than other organizations. For example the non-profit Pro Publica paid its own head Editor a salary of $570,000 in 2008.”

 

2.                   “Barker’s petty attacks reveal her true agenda: take down a pro-troop charity,” – Danny Gonzalez

 

Pro Publica criticized MAF for including photos in our emails that we did not film ourselves. They cited our inclusion of publicly accessible photos. For example, they specifically attacked a photo of troops holding Oreo cookies saying MAF did not take that photo.

 

“We don’t have the resources to send photographers all around the world so we rely on using publically posted photos to help tell the story, but we are never disingenuous about it nor do we ever claim that we took such photos ourselves.  We said we send Oreo cookies in our care packages because the troops like them, so we googled pictures of troops with Oreos.  That’s a perfect representation of what a care package with our Oreo cookies being sent to our troops will yield – the joy of enjoying a treat from home when otherwise stationed halfway around the globe, away from home, friends and loved ones.  Yet, Pro Publica implied that there is something wrong or that we haven’t sent tons of care packages containing cookies, which is exactly what we have done,” said Danny Gonzalez.

 

3.                   “We’re trying to protect the troops and Barker is using that to attack us,” – Scott Raab

 

Pro Publica suggested that we are doing something seedy or underhanded by blurring out the name on the uniform of a military person, “digitally removing the soldier’s name, Boyer, from his cap (quote from Pro Publica)” as if we are hiding something.

 

“We blur out the name tags of soldiers in combat zones as a part of operational security. This is a standard practice to protect the names and identities of our troops while they are in a dangerous place. As a veteran I appreciate that we are not endangering soldiers by publishing their personal information. This is the epitome of how their report is filled with half-truths that are quite simply nonsense,” said Raab.

 

4.                   “Her sources told her the truth, but she willfully ignored it in her article,” – Scott Raab

 

Barker says that one unit we sent care packages to was in Okinawa, not in Afghanistan.  What she ignored was that while some of the unit could have been stationed in Okinawa or sent there for training, the unit members that we sent packages to were deployed in Afghanistan. She was told this by the unit’s Family Readiness Officer but ignored the information to create a false picture for the reader.

 

“Barker called our point-of-contact for the 1st Marine Division, Bill Durdin, who originally provided us the names and addresses of 1/5 Marine Division troops deployed to Afghanistan. She told him that she thought the troops had actually been in Okinawa, Japan.” Says Scott Raab.  “Mr. Durdin actually corrected Ms. Barker verbally on the phone and told her that it was possible some troops had gone through Okinawa temporarily for training, but they would eventually have been deployed to Afghanistan thereafter and that all the care packages we sent would have reached them in Afghanistan. Despite this information, Barker still claimed in her article that all the Marines of the 1/5 were in Okinawa, Japan.”

 

This was all confirmed by Bill Durdin who says, “I informed Ms. Barker on the phone and later via email telling her, it was possible, the unit had first gone to Okinawa for training, but would have eventually deployed to Afghanistan.  At which time, the care packages would eventually reach them there.”

 

“After, Ms. Barkers article was published, I attempted to contact her but, to no avail. I then sent her an email explaining the above,” said Durdin.

 

5.                   “She is lying and willfully distorting everything Bill said,” – Scott Raab

 

It was erroneously reported that a ‘thank you’ letter from Bill Durdin from March, 2013 was actually written two years previous to our effort.  This is wrong, since the “thank you” letter was current time; that was confirmed by Durdin himself.

 

“Barker claims that Move America Forward misused a thank you letter that was provided to us from the 1st Marines. In her article she claims that Bill Durdin told her in an e-mail that Move America Forward “cut and pasted” the letter. In truth, he never told her this, and all of their correspondence was by phone not email so I do not know why she is misrepresenting Bill, who has been a friend of Move America Forward for years. In truth, the letter was authentic and was used properly by the organization,” said Raab.

 

6.                   “Every decision we make is in the best interest of our organization,” – Danny Gonzalez

 

They criticize our use of vendors that we use to manage our online sales and donations.

 

“MAF’s use of vendors are costed out at competitive prices, using trusted vendors who get the job done for us is not unusual and is totally appropriate.  Pro Publica reported gross payments to vendors as if it is all profit.  They don’t mention the valuable services they provide, the custom shopping carts that we asked them to develop for us, the fees that they have to pay the credit card companies, their employees’ salaries, or operating expenses. More deceit,” said Danny Gonzalez

7.                   “Is it now considered journalism to deliberately sabotage the efforts of organizations who are just trying to help wounded vets?” – Danny Gonzalez

 

Pro Publica alleges that MAF lied about our relationship with Walter Reed.

 

“Contrary to what Pro Publica would have you think, the truth is MAF has a long history with Walter Reed, back when it was still in D.C. and continuing after they merged with the Bethesda facility,” said Danny Gonzalez. “As far back as 2008 we, along with other patriots, routinely sent our spokespersons to visit with wounded troops at the facility and stood outside the gates holding signs of support for the wounded vets to counter anti-military pickets. One year we held a Christmas Concert to honor our troops’ service at the nearby Lincoln Theater with almost a dozen musical performances. We invited troops hospitalized at Walter Reed to attend free of charge with their friends and families,” said Gonzalez.

 

“After lengthy discussions, we reached agreement with Walter Reed to provide ‘Wounded Warrior Care Packages’ to them.  Walter Reed advised us as to what items they would like us to include in the care packages and what wounded troops really needed.  Working in conjunction with them, we agreed upon the appropriate list of supplies and items.  We solicited our donors for the “Wounded Warrior Care Packages”, received donations, fulfilled the orders and sent them to Walter Reed.” said Scott Raab.

 

“Walter Reed was appreciative and thanked us.  In our marketing, we referenced our “partnership” with Walter Reed as it was originally agreed upon. Later, when a supervisor of our point-of-contact at Walter Reed was contacted by Pro Publica, they took exception to the word ‘partnership’ and asked us not to use that terminology as they have a policy not to “officially” partner charitable organizations, so we stopped using the word but obviously kept supplying the packages for the wounded soldiers. But for Pro Publica to use that nuance to suggest that we never worked with Walter Reed or didn’t send them care packages, is completely false,” said Raab.

 

“It is worth noting that Move America Forward never had any difficulty dealing with Walter Reed until after Pro Publica’s reporters started calling them and asking questions. One must wonder what the nature of their conversations must have been. Is it now considered journalism to deliberately undermine the efforts of organizations who are just trying to help wounded vets?” asks Gonzalez. “We actually still work with Walter Reed today and will continue to do so in the future, despite Pro Publica’s attempt to sabotage our relationship with Walter Reed and the VA,” said Gonzalez.

 

8.                   “Every one of her sources that we’ve contacted claim she smeared us before asking question,” –Danny Gonzalez

 

They criticize our use of telling the incredible story of a wounded troop without asking permission.

 

“We often take news headlines about the heroic actions of our troops to highlight their bravery and sacrifice to emphasize the need for the American people to support them. In this case we saw an article that had been published by a well-known legitimate news source and showcased it in our e-mail as an example of heroism to be admired,” said Danny Gonzalez. “Nowhere in that e-mail did we imply or claim that the soldier in the news story had endorsed MAF. Even still, when the family of the soldier contacted MAF we respectfully honored his request to withdraw the story off our website despite the fact that the story had already been made public by news media,” said Gonzalez. “Again as with Walter Reed, we never heard anything negative from the soldier until a Pro Publica journalist, most likely Barker, called him and misrepresented our use of his name to make him angry and poison the well.”

 

9.                   “We passed an audit that was pushed by Pro Publica’s pal Lois Lerner…but that wasn’t enough,” – Shawn Callahan

 

Pro Publica tries to imply that MAF does not deserve our charity tax-exempt status, quoting one lawyer they interviewed as saying “They’re playing audit roulette.”

 

“We have already been the subject of an extensive IRS audit where they had an agent in our office going over all our books and operations for three weeks,” said Shawn Callahan, who helped oversee the audit and provided the necessary documents for IRS agents. “We passed the audit, and at the completion of the audit, the IRS auditor even said that our records and practices were some of the best he had seen in organizations of our size. So their assertion that we are trying to operate under the noses of the IRS is entirely ridiculous as the IRS has examined our books with a fine-toothed comb. Asking some liberal fellow-traveler an opinion without the facts is totally irresponsible,” Callahan concluded.

 

10.               “We also want to make sure that every care package has quality items like the Oreo Cookies, Jelly Belly jelly beans, and premium beef jerky,” – Scott Raab

 

Even the MAF care packages themselves were not safe from Pro Publica’s criticism. They attacked our $24.99 price point to sponsor a package, saying that other groups could do it cheaper.

 

“Remember each care package costs $13.80 just for postage.” said Scott Raab. “On top of that, we do not get all of the items in our care packages donated for free. The supply of donated items is not always constant, so sometimes we have to buy items to fill the gaps. We also want to make sure that every care package has quality items like the Oreo Cookies, Gatorade, and premium beef jerky. These items are very rarely donated, so there is a built in cost to get those items too.” says Raab.

 

As you can see, this report against us is total nonsense and being perpetrated by a left-wing organization that is out to destroy conservatives.  Nevertheless, you may have questions about some of the outrageous claims made in the hit-piece. If there are lingering questions, please feel free to contact us and we will be more than happy to address them all.

 

This attack hits at the heart of our mission and what we do: provide support and care packages to the troops.  Rest assured, we fulfill every single care package order that is placed and fill it with quality items for which our troops are grateful. We have extensive documentation to prove this and can make it available to you. Anytime you want to come by our warehouse and volunteer or observe our operation, we welcome you.  Here is a news report from earlier this year that highlights one such shipping effort: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB91S3c4-co&list=UU1TuSN-jZBmhIB26XxeKz-Q

 

This year MAF is celebrating our 10th anniversary. Over the years we’ve held countless pro-troop rallies all across this nation which many of you have attended. We’ve been to Guantanamo Bay; we have been to Iraq many times, personally handing out care packages ourselves and taking Gold Star families to see where their children were killed.  We have travelled all over mainland USA from California to New Hampshire on our Support the Troops bus tours. We have mailed over 315 tons of care packages over the years and thousands just this year to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we’ve been there to defend our troops when far left groups like Code Pink attacked or dishonored them. We stood up against liberals like Kim Barker when the Berkeley City Council tried to kick the Marine Recruiting station out of their city. We have recruited conservative luminaries from Sean Hannity to Jon Voight and Sarah Palin to join with us in supporting the troops at our annual Troopathon, an 8-hour webathon to raise money for the troops; this year the event was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

 

We have been around longer than many other pro-troop charities that we’ve seen come and go, but we are still committed to staying in the fight and supporting our troops until every last one comes home safely.

 

 

Danny Gonzalez

Dir. Of Communications

Move America Forward

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