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Pat Robertson's gravy train – Operation Blessing

House Blender Jerry pointed to an interview about Pat Robertson by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales on Democracy Now that reveals more of the shadow charity operation endorsed by the White House and FEMA for Katrina relief, Operation Blessing. All the media outlets promoted the list of “approved charities, including the NYT, CNN and the AP.

Pat, it appears, took a lot of money from his Operation Blessing and siphoned it off to his religious arm — The 700 Club. The interview, with Max Blumenthal of The Nation, alleges he favors his white evangelical friends, rather than the poor blacks in Louisiana who are suffering.

JUAN GONZALEZ: …The reality is that Operation Second Blessing has been part of the Robertson empire now for many years. He is the chairman of the board himself. His wife is a vice president. One of his sons is a member of the board of directors. So, it’s wholly a non-profit foundation that is controlled by Robertson.

Interestingly enough, when I checked their latest 990 for the fiscal year ending of March of 2004, they give hundreds of grants for a few thousand dollars to churches all around the United States, but the single largest recipient of assistance from Second Blessing is Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. It received $885,000 in grants from the charity. For what purposes, I’m not quite clear.

But the other part of it is also that Second Blessing has had a less than stellar record. Back in the mid-1990s during the Rwandan genocide, Robertson appealed for assistance for Operation Second Blessing on his 700 Club for money to fly relief supplies to the Rwandan refugees in Zaire. What he — it turns out that an investigation later by the Virginia Attorney General’s office revealed that the planes that were bought by the charity were actually ferrying mining equipment for a diamond mining operation, the African Development Corporation, and low-and-behold, who is the principal shareholder of this private corporation? None other than Pat Robertson himself. So, he eventually had to reimburse his own charity $400,000 for the fact that these planes were being used, not for charitable work, but for his own enrichment. Although that might itself — ended up collapsing.

So Robertson’s use of this charity has had problems in the past, and the fact that the federal government listed it among the top three charities before the Catholic charities, before the United Jewish Appeal, before AmeriCares, before all kinds of other charities that have been in existence for decades and decades is quite unusual.

[…]

MAX BLUMENTHAL: So we’re seeing groups like — I mean there are only two secular groups on FEMA’s list, and currently, I think there’s scores of secular groups doing relief work. Pat Robertson’s group, Operation Blessing, is not doing relief work in Louisiana. They — you know, I turned on the 700 Club, which is Pat Robertson’s daily TV show where he called for Hugo Chavez’s assassination, to get a sense of the kind of work they were doing, and what I saw were profiles of white evangelicals who had suffered as a result of Hurricane Katrina. And undoubtedly, a lot of white evangelicals in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi have suffered, but when it came to covering the plight of people in New Orleans who are largely poor and largely black, I have never — I haven’t witnessed any coverage of this disaster that’s so racist as I saw on the 700 Club.

…And the 700 Club also featured a reverend named Wellington Boone, who’s a far right wing black minister, who seemed like he was invited to provide a counterpoint to Jesse Jackson, who had been all over the news. And Boone declared in an interview on CBN’s website, separate from his 700 Club appearance, that these people who have gone through slavery, segregation and the Voting Rights Act are doing this to themselves. So what I saw in Pat Robertson’s operation was an intentional attempt to demonize the people who had been victimized by Hurricane Katrina and by the response of the government, in order to justify whatever his operation was doing on the ground, which seemed to be directed at helping only a certain subset of the hurricane victims which were in his ministry’s network, as it were. And when I say network, I mean within the network of the churches who he is distributing cash grants to.

This makes me nauseous and very angry. Why is there no scrutiny here?

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To find something to laugh about in an otherwise horrible, vile situatiion, Agitprop has a funny post up related to my earlier blogging on Pat Robertson’s little tax problem with his sideline business — “Batsh*t Pat in trouble with over ‘Age Defying’ diet shake.”

Agitprop’s wondering if using his flapjack formula might cook up something eBay-worthy…take a look.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding