Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein want more information about how much money has been collected by dozens of charities that have sprung up in the wake of the Sandy Hook School tragedy. The state officials also hope to identify the intended recipients of money collected or already disbursed.
Letters signed by the attorney general and commissioner were mailed March 28 with a short survey to 69 charities that are registered with the state Department of Consumer Protection or that otherwise have been publicly identified as having accepted donations related to 12/14.
“Consistent with the responsibilities to oversee charitable activities and fundraising in Connecticut, we are requesting information about your organization’s fundraising and charitable efforts. In all circumstances, donors need information to help make informed giving decisions and to understand the purposes for which their gifts will be used. This is particularly important — and challenging — when so much money is being raised so quickly,” the attorney general and commissioner wrote.
Selectman Will Rodgers and James Gaston, have previously expressed concerns — especially for people who launched into fundraising efforts with good intent, but little knowledge of the legal or tax implications of amassing any measurable amount of money, items, or in-kind donations of services.
Both selectmen are overseeing aspects of the philanthropic giving that have come into the community or related funds since the shooting. Mr Rodgers was the town’s liaison to the massive United Way fund that has amassed in excess of $10 million, while Mr Gaston is working to identify and publish a list of charities or fundraising efforts as a community service to those still seeking ways to help.
State officials believe that more than $15 million has been donated to Sandy Hook-related charities since the school shootings, based on media reports. And while charities are not yet bound to respond to the state queries, the attorney general and consumer commissioner hope fund organizers participate in the fact gathering willingly.
“This is a voluntary request for information, but we strongly urge you to participate so this important information can be provided, through our websites or other means, to the giving public,” they wrote.
The questions officials are asking include:
*What is the approximate dollar amount of donations and pledges that your organization has received to date in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy?
*Will these funds be used solely for victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy? If not, approximately what portion will be used for relief for victims and what other purposes, and in what proportions, will funds be used for?
*Approximately how much has your organization spent to date related to the Sandy Hook tragedy?
*What services has your organization provided to those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy? What populations or class of victims are being served by your organization in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy? What services does it expect to provide in the future?
*Has your organization provided funding to other organizations for purposes related to the Sandy Hook tragedy? If so, which organizations have received those funds and what is the approximate dollar amount provided to them? How does your organization determine the need for funding?
*Has your organization provided, or does it intend to provide, direct financial assistance to individuals, families or businesses for Sandy Hook relief? If so, what is the approximate dollar amount that your organization has provided to date and approximately how much direct financial assistance does it expect to provide in the future? How does your organization determine the need for assistance?
*Does your organization have a plan in place on how to use any surplus funds not spent for purposes related to the Sandy Hook tragedy? If so, please describe that plan.
The charities were asked to respond by April 12, with the compiled information made available to the public shortly thereafter. They were also advised that additional information would be requested at a later date about disbursements and steps taken to prevent fraud and/or misuse of resources.
Attorney General Jepsen and Commissioner Rubenstein intend to post the results of the survey on their respective websites in order to add needed transparency to the activities of the various funds and to guide future donors who may wish to make a contribution.
The attorney general and the commissioner cautioned, however, that posting the information should not be considered an endorsement of a charity by their agencies or by the state.
Assistant Attorneys General Karen Gano and Mark Kohler, head of special litigation, are working with the attorney general on this matter.