All last week, FEMA bureaucrats gave prominent placement on the agency’s Web site to Operation Blessing, the Virginia-based charity run by controversial right-wing evangelist and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson.
For anyone wishing to donate only cash, the agency’s site listed the names and phone numbers of three groups: the Red Cross, Operation Blessing and America’s Second Harvest, a national coalition of food banks.
That first list was followed by a second, longer list of several dozen religious and nonsectarian charities. This second list was for anyone who wanted to give either cash or noncash gifts.
Just as in an ordinary election, however, top ballot position makes it far more likely you’ll get noticed and chosen.
The same FEMA list was then disseminated by state and local governments throughout the country. Both Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, for example, placed the same top three FEMA charities on their Hurricane Katrina press releases and Web sites last week.
Those familiar with Robertson and his charity were flabbergasted.
Operation Blessing, with a budget of $190 million, is an integral part of the Robertson empire. Not only is he the chairman of the board, his wife is listed on its latest financial report as its vice president, and one of his sons is on the board of directors.
Back in 1994, during the infamous Rwandan genocide, Robertson used his 700 Club’s daily cable operation to appeal to the American public for donations to fly humanitarian supplies into Zaire to save the Rwandan refugees.
The planes purchased by Operation Blessing did a lot more than ferry relief supplies.
An investigation conducted by the Virginia attorney general’s office concluded in 1999 that the planes were mostly used to transport mining equipment for a diamond operation run by a for-profit company called African Development Corp.
And who do you think was the principal executive and sole shareholder of the mining company?
You guessed it, Pat Robertson himself.
Separating Operation Blessing from Robertson’s many politically oriented endeavors is not that easy.
The biggest single U.S. recipient of the charity’s largess, according to its latest financial report, was Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. It received $885,000 in the fiscal year ended March 2004.