Friday, June 13, 2008
A couple of hours after I posted my article Pat Robertson a Humanitarian I received an email from public relations at Operation Blessing.
I handle public relations for Pat Robertson and Operation Blessing International.And definitely looking around their site they do seem to be a worthy charity. In critiquing Pat Robertson I inadvertently pulled the charity into the ring as well. I did not intend to belittle the people on the ground working at the charity. I am sure they are making a difference in the world by helping those in need.
Publish Poste highest rating. Since its founding 30 years ago, OBI has touched the lives of more than 202.7 million people in more than 105 countries and all 50 states, providing goods and services valued at over $1.4 billion to date.
One of the biggest charities in America, OBI provides strategic disaster relief, medical aid, hunger relief, clean water and community development in 22 countries around the world--including China, Myanmar, Kenya, the Darfur region of Sudan, Pakistan, Somalia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, United States and the Philippines. In 2007, OBI responded to a record 20 disasters in 14 countries, making a significant, long-term impact on the lives of 9.5 million people in this one year alone.
I urge you to visit our blog at www.myowneyes.org.
President & Managing Partner
Dera, Roslan & Campion Public Relations Inc.
I was curious though what official response the charity has to the allegations against Pat Robertson, so I sent this email.
Chris,I was a little surprised when I received a response.
Thank you for your email. Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) gives Operation Blessing a four star rating, which is very respectable. I always check a charity on the Charity Navigator website before I give and Operation Blessing would certainly receive my approval.
Also, thank you for referring me to your blog. I will read the entries there and include additional commentary along with your email in my next post. I have no doubt that Operation Blessing does good for people. My main concern was raised from allegations that the charitable funding hasn't always been used for charity in the past. I'd like to set that straight if you can provide me with more details.
Would you comment on the funds and charity work in Zaire, Liberia, and Louisiana in addition to your current efforts? How does the organization determine how funds are allocated and spent? Do they work with other organizations or do you set up their own relief centers? Do they provide financial information on how government funds are allocated?
Again, thank you for your time and for the efforts you've made on behalf of the less fortunate.
Here are answers to your questions:His criticisms about the newspaper being biased may be valid. As a skeptical person, I should not take one claim above the other without valid evidence. But my sensors go off when I hear a tele-evangelist claim media bias. I remember those same claims over and over from Jim Bakker on air and in the end there may have been media bias, but the reporting was truthful.
Q -- Would you comment on the funds and charity work in Zaire, Liberia, and Louisiana in addition to your current efforts?
A -- Regarding Zaire and Liberia, those allegations came from Bill Sizemore at the Virginian Pilot, a man who boasted to Virginia Quarterly Review this spring that he has made “a 12 year career” out of writing about Pat Robertson. Time and again he has written misleading stories seriously lacking in detail and purposefully leaving out important facts. An instant tip-off for you should be the fact that in that 12 year career he has never written one positive story about Pat Robertson or any of his organizations. In that amount of time he could not find one good thing to write about? In fact, the same can pretty much be said about his paper, the Virginian Pilot. Look at the charity’s work in Myanmar and China in the last month, for which we had major media coverage from NBC Nightly News, CBS Early Show, ABC News Nightline, Associated Press, CNN and many more...all the biggest media in the world except the local paper, the Virginian Pilot. I would urge you to read our response to a profile Mr. Sizemore wrote in the VQR at this web address, which explains the relationship with Mr. Sizemore and describes in full detail the issues you asked about re: Zaire and Liberia:
Regarding Louisiana, my earlier email offered a brief description of our work there. OBI most likely ended up on the FEMA list because OBI had a huge presence there (8,000 volunteers, delivered 12 million pounds of relief supplies, dispensed $4.5 million in cash grants, ran a free medical clinic that helped about 30,000 people, etc). They were first responders to Katrina and one of the last charities to leave (just earlier this year). The fact is that the charity does what it says it does, and the idea that Pat Robertson would somehow personally benefit from an influx of donations is completely absurd. Since 97% of spending goes to programs, it was the victims of Katrina who benefited from the donations received.
As for current efforts, OBI is a registered NGO and one of the largest charities in America, and they are required to be fully transparent with finances. You or anyone else can request a copy of their independently audited financial statements that are on file with the IRS. Again, I would urge you to visit www.myowneyes.org to read all about the work OBI does in 22 countries on a daily basis. Today they are responding to the flooding in the midwest, FYI.
Q -- How does the organization determine how funds are allocated and spent?
A -- OBI goes where the hurt is. Whether it is a major disaster or one of the humanitarian areas in which OBI specializes (as described in earlier email), the decision is made based on need and also how much leverage OBI and its partners can garner. This year, for example, OBI ramped up its anti-parasite program in South America because there is an incredible need for it. Thanks to OBI and its partners some 9.5 million children will now receive free medication in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico.
Q -- Do they work with other organizations or do you set up their own relief centers?
A -- OBI partners with hundreds of international, national and local organizations, as well as major corporations, around the world. For more info log on to www.ob.org where there are many stories about the work OBI does and its many partners.
Q --- Do they provide financial information on how government funds are allocated?
A — OBI currently does not receive any government funds, and has not in years. The last program involving the government at all was a powdered milk program whereby OBI received a donation of surplus powdered milk, but no cash funds were involved with that program.
I hope I have helped to clear this up. If there is anything else I can provide, please let me know.
Online I found an entry for Operation Blessing published by the Center for Media and Democracy, which I think accurately and fairly describes the charity. Much of the text is from the charity itself. It also links to two wikipedia articles, one on Pat Robertson and one on Operation Blessing that are controversial.
My criticism is still for Pat Robertson. I believe he made some poor decisions for the charity. And that's unfortunate because, if true, it taints the name of the charity and draws a black mark on what otherwise looks be an organization doing excellent work in the field.
Even discounting the reporting of the Virginia Pilot due to bias (and I would urge you to read both the article referred to in Mr. Roslan's response as well as the original article) I'm still stuck on the findings of Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs. Would the office state that the charity "willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements" without reason? And it certainly looks suspicious that Attorney General Mark Earley was the one to dismiss the case after earlier receiving campaign donations from Pat Robertson.
In the end I still feel like there are many issues not answered about Mr. (is it Reverend?) Robertson. Suspicions aren't proof. However, I'm not asking anyone to convict Mr. Robertson. I'm simply asking the question of whether or not he should be considered a humanitarian. My initial assessment still stands.