When you give money to charities, the assumption is that the money is going to good causes, and to help make a better life for the world’s neediest.
Charities rely on the charitable nature of others and for the majority of charities; their work is genuine, commendable and indispensable.
Unfortunately charity fraud, while uncommon, does exist. There are a number of charities’ names that come up when searching for deceitful, unlawful and immoral acts.
One such charity that has been plagued by controversy and slander in recent years is Feed the Children. This Oklahoma City-based hunger relief charity was founded in 1979 by Larry Jones and his wife.
For almost 30 years Larry Jones was the face of Feed the Children, making frequent emotional televised pleas for donations accompanied with a starving child sitting next to him, and Feed the Children soon became on of the world’s largest charities.
Feed the Children Rating
In 2010, the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), which rates and evaluate charities in order to help donors make informed decisions about where to give their money, handed Feed the Children (FC) its “Most Outrageous Charity Award”.
The decision to hand the charity the most derogatory “award” in the charity spectre was influenced by a string of claims made against FC.
In 2009, Larry Jones was fired by the FC board after admitting that he authorized the bugging of three offices belonging to FC officials. Despite admitting to this offence, Jones filed a ‘wrongful termination’ suit against the FC board.
The suit was thrown back in the FC founder’s face as the charity responded to his claim with allegations that Jones gave himself and his wife unauthorised raises, took kickbacks from vendors, and had a large stash of pornographic magazines hidden in his FC office.
The Transgressions of Larry Jones
Aside from allegedly giving himself hefty raises, taking bribes and having a penchant for pornography on the job, the FC board also alleged that Jones had failed to:
“…disclose that he had entered into a three-year contract with Affiliated Media Group and that he was in business with a top executive of Affiliated Media Group in another business venture.” (1)
Although the firing of Feed the Children’s seemingly insincere and corrupt founder is not an isolated case in controversy and accusations aimed at FC.
Making a swift transition from being a staunch FC defender to a critic following his dismissal, Jones went from defending the charity’s lavish purchase of a $1.2 million house in Los Angeles as a way to “reach out to celebrities”. He even filed a lawsuit against the FC that included accusing his own daughter of “treating a business residence in California as her personal residence.” (1)
Even with the tarnished and branded Larry Jones’ discharged from FC, the charity continues to be beset by accusations and controversy.
A month after the Haiti earthquake struck, a CBS News Investigation revealed that FC was grossly exaggerating the amount of aid it was giving to victims.
The report included an interview with the AIP president who said that while the FC’s website claimed that the charity was “providing medical relief for 12,000 people”, the three doctors that were working in Haiti and employed by FC would realistically only be able to treat about 100 people a day. (2)
Lies, Lies and More Lies
The FC website also claimed that it was partnering with United Agencies in order to “provide food and milk for the entire camp” in Haiti.
When CBS investigators arrived at the camp, they were informed by the then FC Haiti field manager – who incidentally has since resigned – that this was untrue.
The shocking CBS report concluded that during more than two weeks following the Haiti earthquake, FC had in fact not fed anyone.
When asked by a CBS reporter about his charity’s inability to feed any of the Haiti victims, the FC Director of Communications nonchalantly responded:
“That does surprise me at this time, yes.” (2)
Feed the Children has also been caught up in a series of lawsuits and an ongoing investigation by the Oklahoma Attorney General into allegations that it has improperly used donor money. (3)
Beleaguered by a string of lawsuits and allegations involving its founder’s penchant for bribes, self-given raises, pornography, buying lavish multi-million properties in California, allegations of financial impropriety and failing to feed a single mouth in one of the deadliest and most catastrophic natural disasters in recent years, it seems somewhat ironic that Feed the Children currently has a four star rating, the highest a charity can have, from Charity Navigator, supposedly one of the most experienced charity evaluators in the United States.