Wednesday, June 11, 2008
When I was researching my posts about PTL I came across this site about Pat Robertson the philanthropist and humanitarian. The name and the word humanitarian clashed in my mind, so I decided to read a little more and see why.
I expect his church or some religious organization that he supports is involved in charity work. That would make sense. So what kind of charity work is Mr. Robertson involved in?
First I checked Charity Navigator a watchdog organization for charities. They gave his Operation Blessing charity four stars for organizational efficiency and organizational capacity. That means that the majority (at least 80%, I believe) of the charity's funds go towards programs instead of administrative costs and the charity is able to raise funds and support itself from year to year.
So far so good. It sounds like a responsible charity. But Charity Navigator only reports on charity finances. They do not investigate where the money goes or whether the charity holds up to the claims they make to donors.
I came across this article on Pat Robertson and Operation Blessing.
With the Bush Administration's approval, Robertson's $66 million relief organization, Operation Blessing, has been prominently featured on FEMA's list of charitable groups accepting donations for hurricane relief. Dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and the Associated Press, duly reprinted FEMA's list, unwittingly acting as agents soliciting cash for Robertson. "How in the heck did that happen?" Richard Walden, president of the disaster-relief group Operation USA, asked of Operation Blessing's inclusion on FEMA's list. "That gives Pat Robertson millions of extra dollars."And also about the claims of how the program dollars for Operation Blessing were spent in Africa.
Far from the media's gaze, Robertson has used the tax-exempt, nonprofit Operation Blessing as a front for his shadowy financial schemes, while exerting his influence within the GOP to cover his tracks. In 1994 he made an emotional plea on The 700 Club for cash donations to Operation Blessing to support airlifts of refugees from the Rwandan civil war to Zaire (now Congo). Reporter Bill Sizemore of The Virginian Pilot later discovered that Operation Blessing's planes were transporting diamond-mining equipment for the African Development Corporation, a Robertson-owned venture initiated with the cooperation of Zaire's then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.Even though Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs determined that he willfully mislead the public he was never charged.
The claims and charges continue to how he backed Liberian Charles Taylor who was deposed by the US after claims he was harboring terrorists to claims that he participated in racial discrimination after the Christian Coalition forced black employees to enter through a different entrance.
And probably most egregious is his blame-the-victim mentality towards the people that he was supposed to be helping. How is that charity? And how much of the money went to people who needed it rather than economic ventures, dictators, and mega-churches?
Although largely ignored by the mainstream media these stories have been reported on via internet channels again and again, yet no one seems to know about it.
Which all goes back to accountability. Charities, both secular and religious, need to be accountable to the people who give them donations, whether those donations are given privately or through the government. But that's a topic for another discussion.
So, should Pat Robertson be considered a humanitarian? I'm sure some of the money he receives for charity actually does some good. But at what expense? Wouldn't it be better for the efforts to be carried out by a responsible charitable organization? How many more people could be helped if money wasn't being siphoned off or used for questionable pursuits? Can someone who actively supports the violation of human rights be considered humanitarian?
My answer is no.