By Adam Andrzejewski
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com gave oversight to the federal earmarks stuffed into the $1.7T omnibus spending bill last December. Specifically, we reviewed the public charities in Maine who are receiving millions.
METHOLOGY: 1. Looked up the charity’s IRS 990 informational returns at ProPublica and 2. checked their charitable registration status with the State of Maine.
We contacted the five nonprofits for comment and context and the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, the state charitable solicitation regulators.
ProPublica Non-Profit Explorer:
State of Maine Charitable Registration Lookup:
In the year-end $1.7T omnibus spending bill, there were 7,500 earmarks costing taxpayers $16 billion. Earmarks are local pet projects chosen by a member of Congress for funding. Earmarks are the currency of corruption in Congress and 'bringing back earmarks was the equivalent of bringing back the swine flu.'
Local projects of merit should be funded locally, not with federal tax dollars.
Maine received $400 million in earmark projects and $300 million of that was championed by Maine Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins.
For example, the Maine Irish Heritage Center received $3 million; the Auburn Police Activities League received $3 million; the YMCA-Auburn-Lewiston received nearly $1 million; the Friends of the Veterans’ Memorial Library in Patten, ME received $3.9 million; and the Colonial Theater, Inc in Augusta received $1.5 million.
- Okay. So, local organizations, often times public charities are receiving earmark funding. What rules are there for those organizations to receive the funding?
None of the five Maine charity’s were in compliance with the Maine Charitable Solicitation Act. Those five organizations received $12.5 million in federal earmarks.
In Maine, charities need a license to solicit donations and they need approval from the IRS. We checked the five organizations with the state and the feds.
The Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation responded to our comment request. If you don’t have a license to solicit funds and willfully violate the Act, then it could be a Class D Crime.
- What else did you find?
These organizations were small. Almost no revenues for four of the five organizations. Then, millions in federal earmark funding.
Maine Irish Heritage Center, $3.5 million in earmarks; $172,000 in revenue on IRS 990 (2020); state status: CANCELLED
Auburn Police Activities League; $3 million in earmarks; IRS 990 not found; state status: not found
Young Men's Christian Association of Auburn-Lewiston; nearly $1 million in earmarks; IRS 990 revenues $2.6 million (2020); state status: not found (This org immediately tried to come into compliance after our request for comment and their status in now ‘pending’ with the state.)
Friends of The Veterans' Memorial Library, Patten, ME; $.39 million in earmark funding; tax exempt only since April 2022; state status: not found
Colonial Theater, Inc.; $1.5 million in earmarks; $209,000 in revenue on IRS 990 (2020); state status: not found