Exploiting patriotism for profit U.S. reconsiders weapon
By William Cole
American flags wave, jet fighters zoom, and pictures of sailors and Navy ships are featured prominently at www.navyvets.org.
The United States Navy Veterans Association describes itself as an "Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(19) war membership organization, fully tax-exempt with contributions fully tax-deductible."
State and federal officials, however, describe it as an organization under investigation in at least three states and with a "cease and desist" order for solicitation in Hawai'i.
The Navy Veterans Association and Bobby Thompson, its former director and chief financial officer, are being investigated by regulators in New Mexico, Florida and Missouri over fundraising and spending, according to The Associated Press.
The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times newspaper said it spent six months searching for the 85 directors, auditors and state chapter officials listed on IRS forms filed by the organization, and it could find just one: Bobby Thompson.
The Associated Press said IRS filings for 2008, the most recent year available, showed that the Navy Veterans Association raised just over $4.24 million and spent about the same amount.
The association's website lists chapters or divisions in 41 states, including Hawai'i, as well as Puerto Rico, Panama and the Philippines.
Hugh Jones, supervising deputy attorney general for Hawai'i, said the United States Navy Veterans Association is not registered to solicit contributions in the state, although the association was at one time.
Last October, the association requested to withdraw its registration in Hawai'i, and it was told it couldn't solicit contributions without that registration, Jones said.
On Monday, the state attorney general's office issued a cease-and-desist order to the Navy Veterans Association because within its voluminous website is a listing for a rented mailbox on Bishop Street described as the "Hawai'i Contribution Processing Center," Jones said. "And that is a form of solicitation activity in Hawai'i," Jones said.
On May 18, U.S. Sen. Jim, Webb, D-Va., sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs saying he had recently become aware that the Navy Veterans Association was "under investigation in at least three states for its legitimacy, fundraising activities and expenditures on behalf of veterans."
The Navy Veterans Association Hawai'i chapter phone number, 440-4650, has a lengthy recorded message saying, in part, that, "America is still the hope of mankind, a light that shines for freedom in the darkness, and that that darkness will not overcome us."
The association did not respond to an Advertiser request for comment.