Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BJ: Beware of tax exempt profitable non-profit telemarketers

Back in the '90s, I visited  the splashy InfoCision headquarters on  Springside Dr. for a Plain Dealer story on what the huge telemarketer was all about. Passing by the offices and caller modules I was fixed on the posters that had nothing good to say about the Clintons.  No one could ignore the politics in the air.

I was reminded of that experience by Bob Dyer's two-part series in the Beacon Journal that turned up a lot of  negatives about the InfoCision  policies from his interviews with former employes who had engaged in a class-action suit against the company.
There were complaints about working conditions, pay policies and deceptive tales told to prospective donors about fairy-tale matching grants.   As Dyer reported, the suit was "settled quietly" last year before it went to trial.

Although InfoCision has many clients that add up to the second largest telemarketer in the country,   it is also true  that it has raised money tilting toward  conservative religious groups, which, in turn, are head over heels into political mischief.    There is an invisible line between religion and politics these days, and if Pat Robertson's organization enjoys InfoCision's fund-raising talent as a client, it is fair to raise the question of the silliness of tax exemptions  to the giant telemarketer as well as to all other tax exempt enterprises that operate under the guise of charitable social work. From that standpoint, the "scandal"  over the government's targeting of some major non-profits should be a blessing in disguise.

Unfortunately, the controversy will not need a long recuperative period for the offended non-profits.  The reason, as usual, is that we're talking about big money here.  And much of the establishment is perfectly content, with a wink and a nod,   to take what InfoCision raises for the public "good" - as with the Diabetes Assn. - or the naming of the University of Akron's  new football stadium thanks a $10 million gift from the late Gary Taylor, InfoCision's founder.

Good job, Bob Dyer.  But until you are able to raise that kind of money, you can have no hope that anything will change in the definition of an elephantine tax exempt   political and religious handyman in charge of the cash flow.

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