Santorum's Charity Rewards His Cronies

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Santorum's Charity Rewards His Cronies

After reading this article from the March issue of American Prospect, I'm not sure what is most disconcerting about the charity launched by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) -- the fact that so much of its money is wasted on overhead or the fact that its operations are so tangled up in Santorum's political network.

In the article, American Prospect's Will Bunch writes:
In 2001, [Santorum] launched the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation. The charity, which seeks to award money to faith-based groups and other organizations that combat poverty and social ills like teen pregnancy, has a Web page loaded with photos of a smiling Santorum, posing with oversized checks and leaders of community groups.

... A review of federal tax returns filed by the foundation for 2001, 2002, and 2003 shows that the charity spent just 35.9 percent of the nearly $1 million raised on its charitable grants, while spending 56.5 percent on expenses like salaries, fund-raising commissions, travel, conference costs, and rent.

Charity experts say that charitable groups should spend at least 75 percent of their money on program grants, and that donors should beware of organizations that spend as little as Santorum’s has.
There's nothing illegal about operating a charity that spends dollars so inefficiently. Yet Operation Good Neighbor Foundation also seems to serve as a vehicle for enriching Santorum's political operatives and allies:

The donor list isn’t the only overlap between Santorum’s charity and his political operation. The charity’s treasurer is Barbara Bonfiglio -- who works out of the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm of Williams and Jensen and serves as treasurer of the senator’s leadership PAC, America’s Foundation.

Operation Good Neighbor also paid $50,000 in total salary in 2002 and 2003 to Rob Bickhart, Santorum’s finance director, who is also the charity’s executive director.

It has paid $118,710 in fund-raising fees to Maria Diesel of Chester County, Pennsylvania, who also raises money for Santorum’s political efforts.

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