Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that a Washington for-profit fundraising firm with an office in Medford has agreed to cease soliciting charitable contributions in Oregon pending further legal proceedings. Named in a stipulated injunction are Charitable Aid, Inc, and its president, Ben Block. Charitable Aid is headquartered in Bellingham.
Charitable Aid solicited funds on behalf of the Oregon Council of Police Associations and the Medford Firefighters Association. On December 9th, the Department filed suit against Charitable Aid in Jackson County Circuit Court and obtained a temporary restraining order shutting down Charitable Aid's most recent campaign for the Medford Firefighters Association, "Substitute Santa." The stipulated injunction announced today continues the prohibition on telephone soliciting.
In addition to failing to register the "Substitute Santa" campaign, as required by Oregon law, the Department alleged that Charitable Aid solicitors made several misrepresentations to Oregon consumers during other fundraising campaigns, including that donors would receive window stickers that granted "special privileges" from law enforcement agencies. Moreover, at least one potential donor was told that a donation would be used for educating the children of police officers killed in the line of duty, when, in fact, the Oregon Council of Police Associations has no such program.
"Charities are required to register so that Oregonians have access to valuable financial and program information," Myers said. "If a charity fails to register, donors do not know how much of their money is being used for charitable purposes. In this most recent campaign, Department investigators believed that only 20 to 30 percent of the contributions would be used to purchase toys for underprivileged children."
The lawsuit seeks to prohibit permanently Charitable Aid and Block from conduction fundraising activities in Oregon. It also seeks restitution for consumers who made donations due, in whole or in part, to false or misleading representations and $25,000 against each defendant for each violation of Oregon law. The case is not yet scheduled for trial.
Consumers who were contacted by Charitable Aid, or who would like to verify claims made by telephone solicitors prior to making donations, should contact the Department's Charitable Activities Section in Portland at (503) 229-5725. In addition, consumers can research charities online by logging onto the Department's webpage at www.DOJ.state.or.us and clicking on the charitable activities button.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Cogswell, (503) 378-6002