A New York charity that was supposed to solicit money for needy minority students not only reportedly issued a total of zero grants the last two years but also hosted an expensive annual party eating up tens of thousands of dollars.
The New York Post reported of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators:
Federal tax filings confirm that in the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2016, the group gave out no educational grants — despite raking in contributions totaling more than $500,000 … In the 2014-15 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015, the group spent $157,926 on “food service,” $6,332 on limousines and $30,657 on “event decor,” according to tax filings. It also spent $3,000 on the Sunday preacher. Of the $564,677 the group received in contributions that year, only $35,745 went to scholarships, a little more than 6.3 percent of total revenue … In the previous fiscal year, 2013-14, the group doled out $32,000 in scholarships out of total contributions of $580,190, tax filings show.
The organization’s annual “Caucus Weekend” includes workshops, concerts and parties in Albany for minority members of the Assembly and the Senate. Sponsors could donate as much $50,000 so they could meet Democratic celebrities like Hillary Clinton. Jesse Jackson, Grammy-winning rapper Big Daddy Kane, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and former US Ambassador Andrew Young. Caucus Weekend 2016 spent $128,000 on “food service,” $36,500 on music and $56,494 for “equipment rental.”
The Post claimed that the organization would not let the paper see its tax filings that covered the period October 2016 to September 2017, though federal law states the information must be dispensed. The Post noted, “The group had its charitable status temporarily revoked in 2011 by the IRS after it failed to file tax returns for three consecutive years, according to federal tax documents.”
Democratic Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, who currently serves as the chair of the organization, stated, “When I became Chair of the organization in October, 2017, there were many financial deficits, but I am proud to say that after alternative protocols and procedures were put in place, the organization is fiscally sound. Under my leadership, we have given out — and will continue to give out – scholarships to those most in need … ”
The second-highest ranking board member, State Sen. Leroy Comrie, would not answer inquiries from the Post. Queens Democratic Assemblywoman Michele Titus, a former chairwoman of the organization, also refused comment.
The Times Union, which had investigated the organization in 2017, wrote on Monday:
The charity, which was formed in 1985, has in the past vowed to increase the percentage of its revenues that it spends on scholarships, according to the 2017 Times Union investigation. In the nonprofit’s official program for the 2015 retreat, then-Chairwoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes — an Assembly member from Buffalo — stated that “we intend to double the amount of scholarship funds given to students in their respective districts.”
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, the organization’s treasurer, said he could not recall when the last scholarship had been given.