Is American Breast Cancer Coalition a scam? 'Charity' has shady ties and history
ABCC is one of several political groups masquerading as charities, raising money for a number of issues but channeling it into raising more money
The American Breast Cancer Coalition, as per a new report, might be “a scheme to extract millions of dollars in donations, mostly from small contributors.” In May 2019, Bill Davis created the nonprofit, and the group quickly started raising money. The ABCC website states that it is “a national political organization organized under Section 527 of the IRS Tax Code.”
As per a new report in The Daily Beast, robocalls from ABCC claim the goal of the group’s fundraising is to “support legislators who will fight for the fast track approval of life-saving breast cancer health bills and breast cancer treatment drugs to the FDA.” But financial records on file with the Internal Revenue Service reportedly tell a different story.
A joint investigation between The Daily Beast and OpenSecrets found payments to firms with ties to a multimillion-dollar “scam PAC” network. Since its inception in 2019, ABCC reportedly has brought in nearly $3.57 million, according to IRS filings. However, the nonprofit has so far paid nearly every dollar it has raised to fundraising companies, some of which reportedly have ties to telemarketer Mark Gelvan.
Gelvan was found guilty in September 2020 by a federal court of using his company Outreach Calling to run a charity scam that defrauded donors out of millions.
Gelvan got hit with a $56 million fine for that operation and was banned from charity fundraising. In fact, one of the fundraising companies is registered to one of Gelvan’s co-defendants, who was also fined and barred from charity fundraising.
The Daily Beast reported that ABCC is one of several political groups masquerading as charities, who raise money for a number of issues but eventually channel that money into raising more money. Eric Friedman, the head of Maryland’s Montgomery County Department of Consumer Protection, said, “Scammers are clever and constantly moving. So it looks like the trajectory started as phony charities, who then decided they were better off operating as phony FEC groups, and now the latest transition -- just in time for Halloween, I guess -- is to be a phony PAC registered with the IRS instead of with the FEC.”
The report said that while PACs can usually operate in a legal gray area by registering as a political group instead of a charity organization, ABCC is more brazen by usual standards. Reportedly, ABCC being registered with the IRS as a “527” political group makes it so. Political groups known as 527s are tax-exempt nonprofits that are supposed to operate primarily to influence the “selection, nomination, election, appointment, or defeat of candidates for federal, state, or local public office.”
Any political group whose major purpose is the nomination or election of federal candidates is required to register with the FEC as a federal political committee. But 527 groups are not subject to FEC oversight. Friedman said political groups have made increasing shifts towards 527 because “it’s easier to hide what they’re doing, so we’re now looking at that phase of the scam.”
Lloyd Mayer, a nonprofit law expert at the University of Notre Dame Law School, explained, “The difficulty here is that the donors may have thought it was going to charity, but because the call script doesn’t say that, it raises a jurisdictional issue. However, if it’s fraud, it’s fraud.”
“No one is looking to see if the filings make sense if the math is correct if the numbers are semi-accurate,” he added. “You could shade them, lie, misrepresent, fudge, make it hard to see.”