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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Little Ahmed Chalabi Will Go to Bed Hungry Tonight -- Unless You Help 

Tell us where the $8.8 billion (did we say 8.8? Oops! Make that 9.8) went, and maybe we'll discuss it:
From the Indian Ocean tsunami to the church around the corner, Americans have shown time and again they are willing to open their pocketbooks for charity, for a total of about $250 billion last year alone.

But now, amid pleas for aid after Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration has launched an unusual effort to raise charitable contributions for another cause: the government's attempt to rebuild Iraq.

Although more than $30 billion in taxpayer funds have been appropriated for Iraqi reconstruction, the administration earlier this month launched an Internet-based fundraising effort that it says is aimed at giving Americans "a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq."

Contributors have no way of knowing who's getting the money or precisely where it's headed, because the government says it must keep the details secret for security reasons.

But taxpayers already finance the projects the administration is seeking charitable donations for, such as providing water pumps for farmers. And officials say any contributions they receive will increase the scope of those efforts, rather than relieve existing taxpayer burdens.
Elsewhere on the charity beat: you may have missed the recent revelation that Pat Robertson's "Operation Blessing" -- the organization that was briefly listed just behind the Red Cross on FEMA's hurricane-relief website -- diverted half of its donations to another of Robertson's rackets, the Christian Broadcasting Network:
Bill Horan, the charity's president, at first denied his charity gave any money to Robertson's television operation.

"Well, that's an absolute, total and complete distortion of the truth," Horan said. "Operation Blessing does not give 1 red cent to CBN."

When he was told of the Operation Blessing documents obtained by ABC News, which show a contribution of $885,000 to CBN, Horan called it an accounting issue.

"I'm president of a charity that's been working 22 to 24 hours a day for the last week trying to save lives down there," he said, "and I'm not going to talk any more about the issues that involve accounting."
(Thanks to Zemblan patriot K.Z. for the link.)

UPDATE (via our distinguished colleague Michael at AmericaBlog): Okay, it's not exactly the charity beat, but it's close enough for government work:
Two of the first companies that got emergency no-bid federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery work have faced questions over past business practices, court and government records show.

A division of Fluor, a California firm awarded a housing contract worth up to $100 million, has paid millions of dollars to settle federal government lawsuits — including one that accused it of overbilling for 1989 hurricane cleanup work.

The Shaw Group, a Louisiana firm that won housing and engineering contracts worth up to $200 million, has disclosed that it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm is also a defendant in federal securities class-action cases . . . .

FEMA spokesman Widomski said his agency had been unaware of both the SEC matter and the securities class-action lawsuits involving the Shaw Group.
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