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Senator Releases Report On Wounded Warrior Project Spending. Here's What He Found
A senator’s investigation into the Wounded Warrior Project after allegations of lavish spending last year has concluded that there were problems, but the organization is working to repair them.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, launched his investigation in March 2016, following reports by the New York Times and CBS News of excessive spending on events and airfare and a toxic organizational culture at the charity for wounded servicemembers and veterans. The reports led to plummeting donor support and the ouster of Wounded Warrior Project’s two top executives.
Grassley, who sits on the Senate finance and judiciary committees, said he spent months pressing WWP’s board to release the information he was seeking.
In a release late Wednesday, Grassley said the organization, under Chief Executive Director Mike Linnington, has been more open about WWP’s problems – something he called a responsibility that nonprofits have to the public because they enjoy tax-free status.
“It’s good news that Wounded Warrior Project used negative findings to try to turn itself around,” Grassley said in his release. “Some high-profile charities do the opposite when confronted with problems. They hunker down instead of embracing their responsibilities to the people who are meant to benefit from their charitable mission, the donating public and the taxpayers.”
The New York Times and CBS News cited dozens of mostly anonymous former employees of the charity, who claimed it spent money on first class tickets and lavish staff gatherings, and alleged that employees and whistleblowers were reluctant to speak out fearing retaliation. The reports, which came out in January 2016, also referred to a drop in WWP’s rating on the nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator, citing a too-high percentage of donations spent on fundraising instead of programs.
In early March 2016, the charity’s board did an external review, then instituted actions to curtail excess spending on flights or events and removed CEO Steve Nardizzi and Chief Operating Officer Al Giordano. WWP did not release findings of that review.
Grassley’s investigation looked at five areas:
- Allegations that WWP was inaccurately portraying its fundraising expenses.
- WWP claims that donated airtime for advertising could be counted as programming.
- Questions about the validity of a long-running ad in which WWP said it had spent $65 million on long-term support programs. The money was placed in a trust to support veterans who need full-time care when their spouse or caregiver passes away.
- Concerns over the organization’s lack of transparency, particularly regarding the external review.
- Lack of proper tracking of costs and participation in events for veterans.
In his findings, Grassley concluded that WWP had misrepresented its program spending, which he calculated as close to 68 percent. He said he is assured that the organization has changed its method of calculating the spending. He also chastised WWP for counting donated airtime as programming.
With regard to the trust, Grassley found that since the money was put into reserve rather than spent on veterans, he believed that the ad was misleading. He said the charity is no longer using the ad, but WWP “needs to better inform the public of its goals with respect to the trust.”
Calling for greater transparency, Grassley released a three-page summary and a five-page response to questions from attorney Paul Curnin, whose firm Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett conducted the independent review. That review had not been put into a written report. Grassley released it despite the document’s headline: “Confidential Treatment Requested.”
It stated that while WWP had tightened its rules on airline tickets for employees, other allegations in the initial media reports “were either false or exaggerated.” The review supported WWP’s calculations of programming expenses and found that media reports had falsely claimed that an employee retreat had a $3 million price tag. The group actually spent $1 million. The review also countered allegations that WWP did not reach out to warriors, finding that from 2013 to 2015, staff called over 150,000 veterans and sent more than 114,000 emails.
In his correspondence, Grassley inquired about WWP’s whistleblower retaliation policy, but made no findings or recommendations. Asked about it, a member of his staff said the senator found no wrongdoing.
Nardizzi, who was contacted by Stars and Stripes, said he was encouraged that the report -- while questioning some spending allocations -- debunked allegations of wild alcohol-infused parties and tens of millions spent on events.
“I think it largely vindicates the work we were doing at WWP,” Nardizzi said. “He did not find any of the things you normally see when there is an alleged scandal -- no findings of fraud or misappropriation of funding.”
©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."