Many of the charities created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks have failed to accomplish their missions and are unable to account for how the donations they received were spent, the Associated Press reports.
An AP investigation based on an analysis of Internal Revenue Service forms and other official documents found the majority of the 325 charities established after 9/11 filed all required documents for charitable organizations, accounted fully for their expenditures, and closed after fulfilling identified goals. Yet, the AP also found dozens that were poorly managed, have little to show for their spending, and failed to file the required income tax returns for most, if not all, operating years. Moreover, many also are still raising money today for their 9/11-related cause.
The Connecticut-based Flag of Honor/Flag of Heroes Project, for example, has drawn scrutiny from the AP, because much of its proceeds have gone to the for-profit flag company, BIE LLC, owned by the charity's founder John Michelotti. While the project's Web site includes ten nonprofit beneficiaries of the flag sales, most of the organizations actually are customers of BIE, which has donated approximately $15,000 to 9/11 charities. The charity, on the other hand, has received nearly $140,000 in gifts and other revenue from 2003 to 2009 and has donated framed copies of the flag, which lists the names of all the dead, to the families of up to 350 victims.
Elsewhere, the Arizona-based American Quilt Memorial, which was launched by Kevin Held of Stage 1 Productions in 2003, has raised a total of $713,000 through various grassroots fundraising efforts, including T-shirt sales and school drives. Of that, more than $270,000 was paid to Held, who served as the organization's executive director, and his family members, while an additional $170,000 was spent on travel to promote the project. Despite having received approximately three hundred quilts, the project shut down earlier this month after the AP began its investigation. In an online statement, Held explained that "the time it has taken and the grassroots efforts to raise funds...coupled with the tough economic times, is simply preventing us from realizing our hope to create the massive memorial Quilt."
Held, who admitted to making up the story behind the nonprofit group's genesis, insists that while he can't justify all the expenses his charity made, all of the money has been accounted for. "It doesn't mean I'm a bad person," Held told the AP. "It just means I made a mistake."