Braille Monitor                                                                  April-May 1985

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Unethical and Unprofessional

At the NFB convention in 1982 William Gallagher, Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind, seemed very sensitive and defensive concerning the question of whether the Foundation had contributed money to the so-called "Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind" (ALL) as a passthrough to help finance Bob Acosta's lawsuit in California. Mr. Gallagher did not deny the contribution to ALL but made a general comment to the effect that it was not unusual for the Foundation to help finance the program of a relatively new organization. At that time we did not have the specific details about dollars and cents. Now, we do.

The American Foundation for the Blind operates on a fiscal year from July 1 through the following June 30. For fiscal 1982 the Foundation (according to its tax returns) gave $85,000 to the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind (ALL). ALL 's 1982 tax returns show that it had total program expenses of $107,553. It further reported that it gave $41,737 (38.8 percent of its total program expenditures) to what it called "The California Legal Research Committee, a Committee of the California Council of the Blind." From the tax returns of the American Council of the Blind we gain additional information. ACB reports that in 1982 it gave $27,500 to ALL for "Research and Education Project and General Contribution." When the ACB contribution of $27,500 is added to the American Foundation for the Blind contribution of $85,000, the figure is $112,500. It can readily be seen that this is almost $5,000 greater than the total $107,553 program expenditures made by ALL for the entire year.

Yet, there are still those who say with a straight face that ALL is not a "front" organization and a mere conduit Current tax laws require that non-profit organizations assume some responsibility for monitoring expenditures of the grants they make to assure that expenditures are made in accordance with stated purposes and with provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. If the Bob Acosta group in California had been carrying on a lawsuit to defend the legitimate civil rights of a blind person, the Foundation and ACB might have some grounds for defending the legality of their contribution even though its propriety and ethical justification would seem to be totally lacking. However, Acosta was not engaging in a legitimate lawsuit to defend the civil rights of a blind person. He was leading a group which claimed to be part of the National Federation of the Blind in a struggle for internal political power. All parties agree that the lawsuit involved an internal Federation battle. It had nothing to do with external problems but was an attempt by a disappointed local leader to thwart the will of the convention and Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. There can be no possible justification for an outside organization to finance an internal lawsuit in another organization. Under the circumstances it is not surprising that the funds were laundered. This case provides irrefutable proof as to the real character and purpose of the so-called Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind.

What other laundering may have occurred? What may still be occurring? Surely no one would care publicly to defend the practice of financing an internal lawsuit in another organization for the purpose of trying to weaken or destroy it-especially, if the target group has been making embarrassing and unrefuted exposures concerning the parties doing the financing. To finance an internal lawsuit for the purpose of eliminating a troublesome critic is not only unethical and unprofessional but also most probably illegal.

In fact, the entire American Foundation for the Blind-American Council of the Blind-Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind-NAC combine engages in practices which it would surely not want to be the subject of public scrutiny. The tax forms of the American Foundation reveal that it continues to provide more than half of the entire budget of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). The 1981 and 1982 tax forms of the American Council of the Blind show contributions to NAC. ACB and American Foundation leaders sit on the NAC board. ACB leaders sit on the Foundation board. Leaders of these three groups make up the principal leadership of the Affiliated Leadership League.

There is more! The tax laws require that a non-profit organization making a grant to another organization or individual must list on the tax form the recipient of the grant. The 1981 tax from of National Industries for the Blind shows that it made contributions of $90,000, but there is no indication as to who received the money or for what purpose the grant was made. Yet, we are constantly being told that these groups are very "ethical," very "professional." Is it any wonder that the blind have lost faith in many of the governmental and private agencies established to give them service? Is it any wonder that the claims of ethical conduct and professional behavior are viewed not with respect but bitter humor?