Donors who have given money to four of the largest cancer charities in the United States may have unknowingly been financing the lavish lifestyle of the C.E.O. who runs them—paying for luxury cruises, elite gym memberships instead of treatment for cancer patients.
That’s according to a suit filed Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission as well as attorneys general in all 50 states, which alleges that James Reynolds deceived and defrauded donors out of more than $187 million between four of his charities—including the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society.
The complaint says that the scheme started in the 1980’s. The charities told donors via telemarketing calls that their money would go toward medicine and transportation for cancer patients. However, most of the money actually went toward Reynolds’ personal indulges.
The complaint says that between 2008 and 2012, only three percent of donations actually went to cancer patients.
The FTC also accuses the organizations of cooking their books and reporting inflated revenues as well as “gifts in kind” that they said they distributed internationally.
The FTC said two of the charities—the Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society plan to settle the charges out of court. The Associated Press reported that the Breast Cancer Society, posted a statement on its website Tuesday blaming increased government scrutiny for the charity's downfall.
"While the organization, its officers and directors have not been found guilty of any allegations of wrongdoing, and the government has not proven otherwise, our board of directors has decided that it does not help those who we seek to serve, and those who remain in need, for us to engage in a highly publicized, expensive, and distracting legal battle around our fundraising practices," the statement said.
Several executives who were also involved in the sccheme, including Reynolds’ son, have agreed to a settlement, which bans them from working in fundraising or charities. The two charities that settled, Breast Cancer Society and the Children’ Cancer Fund of America will be dissolved.
The settlement also orders a $65,664,360 judgment, which is the amount consumers donated between 2008 and 2012. Reynolds junior’s judgment will be for suspended once he pays $75,000. Meanwhile the legal proceedings for Reynolds’ senior and the two remaining charities are ongoing.
Although Republicans are prepared to go it alone on tax reform, President Trump suggested creating a bipartisan working group on the topic during a Wednesday meeting with senators from both parties. Some senators were open to the idea, but it doesn’t look like Republicans have much interest in slowing down the process with in-depth negotiations. “I don’t really personally see the benefit of creating additional structure. I think we’ve got all the tools we need,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who attended the meeting, according to Politico. Democrats appear skeptical, too. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he told Trump that the distance between what Republicans were saying about their plan and what it actually does is a serious problem.
White House officials tell USA Today’s Heidi Przybyla that President Trump will include a number of compromises to limit his tax plan’s benefits for the wealthy when he promotes the blueprint next month:
“The compromises will include ending a 23.8% preferential tax rate for hedge-fund managers, or the so-called carried interest rate, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told USA TODAY. … Retaining parts of a state and local tax deduction that benefits many middle-class families in blue states is also an area where Trump is expecting compromise.”
Trump campaigned on raising the carried interest rate, saying its beneficiaries are “getting away with murder.” But changes to the carried interest rate may run into opposition from House Republicans, and the tweaks appear unlikely to win any Democratic support.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers made his distaste for the Trump administration’s tax framework clear last week when he said Republicans were using “made-up” claims about the plan and its effects. Summers expanded his criticism on Tuesday in a blog post that took aim at the report released Monday by the Council of Economic Advisers and chair Kevin Hassett, which seeks to justify the administration’s claim that its tax plan will result in a $4,000 pay raise for the average American family.
Never one to mince words, Summers says the CEA analysis is “some combination of dishonest, incompetent and absurd.” The pay raise figure is indefensible, since “there is no peer-reviewed support for his central claim that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would raise wages by $4000 per worker.” In the end, Summers says that “if a Ph.D student submitted the CEA analysis as a term paper in public finance, I would be hard pressed to give it a passing grade.”
One of the authors cited in the CEA paper also has some concerns. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai tweeted Tuesday that the CEA analysis “misinterprets” a 2007 paper he co-wrote on the dynamics of the corporate tax burden. Desai’s research has found a connection between business tax cuts and wage growth, but not as large as the CEA paper claims. “Cutting corporate taxes will help wages but exaggeration only serves to undercut the reasonableness of the core argument,” Desai wrote.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Monday that tax reform has to happen this year, even if it means Congress has to stay in session longer. "I think we have a unique window in time right now, but unfortunately we keep losing days to this window,” he said. “The opportunity is now." House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week he’d keep members over Christmas if that’s what it takes. And Ryan predicted Monday that tax reform would pass the House by early next month and then get through the Senate to reach the president’s desk by the end of the year. But there are plenty of skeptics out there, given the hurdles. Issac Boltansky, an analyst at the investment bank Compass Point, told Business Insider, "The idea of getting tax reform done this year is a farcical fantasy. Lawmakers have neither the time nor the capacity to formulate and clear a tax reform package in 2017."