By Paul Shannon-

There are two things that make people feel good when they part with their money. One is for political groups that support the same issues as the donor and charities. Sal Russo came under fire for the budgeting of the TEA Party Express and now is coming under fire for the same reason with his Move Forward America. Instead of the money going to care packages sent to troops, ProPublica is accusing Move Forward America of misleading donors. There is also the accusation that the money is being funneled to the men behind the charity and their political consulting groups.

What is Move Forward America

Here, via the MFA homepage, is what the charity’s mission is supposed to be.

Move America Forward (MAF) is a military charity and the nation’s largest grassroots pro-troop organization, MAF is dedicated to supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces and their missions to defeat terrorism.  MAF is supported by hundreds of thousands of pro-troop activists, veterans, and military families all across the nation who share in our unwavering support.

We work with other non-profits, military service organizations, corporate sponsors, community networks and private citizens to support our Military and demonstrate affirmatively our appreciation and admiration for their service to America. 

It is our strong belief that American citizens must be enlisted in the effort to let our troops know that they are in our hearts and prayers and that we will defend their service and honor them here on the homefront while they protect America on the frontlines overseas.

What ProPublica found

ProPublica did some in depth research. The first thing they spotted is where MFA claimed that they had given care packages to the 1st Marine Division. That story can be read here.

In February 2013, Move America Forward announced an ambitious fundraising goal. The charity, launched in part by one of the most prominent figures in the Tea Party movement, had adopted the 800 Marines in a battalion fighting in Afghanistan and wanted to send them all care packages.

“For some troops, these care packages are the only mail they will receive all year,” the group said in one email solicitation.

The charity later described the fundraising drive as a rousing success: In less than five weeks, all 800 Marines in a 1st Marine Division battalion nicknamed Geronimo were sent care packages and notes in Afghanistan, it claimed.

But that couldn’t have been true. The Marines of Geronimo weren’t even in Afghanistan during Move America Forward’s fund drive. Instead, they were deployed more than 3,000 miles away, in Okinawa, Japan.

The family readiness program coordinator had something else to say.

Bill Durdin, the family readiness program coordinator for the 1st Marine Division, said Move America Forward recently sent care packages to at least five units in the division, but said a “thank you” letter from him to the charity included in a March 2013 email praising donors for the Geronimo pledge drive had actually been written a year or two earlier. In an email to ProPublica, Durdin described the charity’s use of his letter as “a serious case of ‘Cut & Paste(ing)’!”

The charity organization has also tied itself to very well connected Republicans. Both President George H. W. Bush and President George H. Bush signed on. The charity has been audited, but the money seems to be getting moved around.

The literature that they use to get funds and big names is even questionable.

In soliciting funds for care packages, Move America Forward frequently uses testimonials from troops or their relatives. Some are legitimate, but in several cases, ProPublica found, the charity took photos and stories without permission and used them as its own.

One solicitation emailed on April 2, 2013, included a note from “Lacey,” Move America Forward’s contact in Afghanistan. “An update that I received the 60 [packages] you sent off on March 25 & 26th,” Lacey wrote. “We got them yesterday and already got them on our chinook today out [to] some dustoff guys who have been eating MREs for a month now.”

The note promised to send more pictures “like before,” and included a photograph of a Chinook helicopter unloading supplies.

But ProPublica traced the photograph back to a stock photo company called StockTrek Images. It was actually taken on Sept. 22, 2004, when soldiers were unloading supplies in Afghanistan for a combat resupply mission.

ProPublica traced other photographs employed in fundraising pleas by Move America Forward to media outlets such as Agence France Press, Reuters and the San Antonio Express-News, to photos posted by service members on Flickr, to random photos pinned on Pinterest. Move America Forward even used the photograph of a soldier hugging a woman found on Pinterest for a Valentine’s Day pitch, digitally removing the soldier’s name, Boyer, from his cap.

There are more questionable actions. It would seem that this is not the organization to donate money to. It could also cause the group to get a full investigation. That investigation will make conservatives look bad, but at the same time the group could well be hurting other charities.




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