Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is Steve Buyer Running an Illegal Charity?

The answer to that question is probably no...not directly, but the Buyer links, however indirect, in this article about the tax-exempt Frontier Foundation are hard to ignore.

Some of the more damning passages of the article from writer David Smith in the Lafayette Journal and Courier include:

"A nonprofit foundation associated with Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Monticello, has been quietly collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for the primary purpose of helping students pay for college.

But the foundation, which enjoys tax-exempt status, has yet to award its first scholarship after six years in existence."

Then there's this...

"Information about Frontier Foundation emerged in the limelight earlier this year, triggered by a 2007 federal law that required companies to report, for the first time, contributions made in honor of members of Congress.

USA Today went through the documents and compiled a list of who received the most in honorary donations in 2008. Buyer was 13th on the list with $192,225. Two of those donations, totaling $35,000, went to the Frontier Foundation.

Frontier Foundation's donations over the years have come primarily from organizations with stakes in legislation moving through committees on which Buyer sits.

Those include the pharmaceutical, health insurance and tobacco industries -- which have a stake in bills that go through the House Subcommittee on Health -- and the telecommunications industry. Bills affecting the latter go through the House Subcommittee on Communications, Telecommunications and the Internet."

Another piece...

"'It's not Congressman Buyer's foundation,' press secretary Anjulen Anderson said.

Buyer has several indirect connections, however. The foundation shares an office with his district office in Monticello, or at least did as of June 8, 2009, when it filed its most recent IRS Form 990 tax report. The Form 990 is an annual report certain federally tax-exempt organizations must file.

That report listed Buyer's daughter, Colleen Buyer, as president, and his finance director, Stephanie Mattix, as secretary-treasurer."


In 2008, the Frontier Foundation received $100,148 in donations, less than half the amount it got in 2007. Among donors that dropped out last year was Eli Lilly & Co., a pharmaceutical company based in Indianapolis with production and development facilities in Tippecanoe County.

The company contributed $100,000 to Frontier Foundation from 2005 to 2007, according to tax reports.

Ed Sagebiel, Lilly spokesman, explained what happened.

'We have provided funding to Congressman Buyer's foundation. We believed it to be a worthy cause,' he said.

'We have a new grants process that reviews all of our charitable contributions and that process is very competitive, and we have fewer resources, dollar resources, at this time. I just don't think it's made it through that process the last couple of years.'

Not all contributors, however, are holding back.

So far this year, according to lobbying reports, PhRMA, a trade group representing pharmaceutical companies, has given $25,000 to Frontier Foundation in Buyer's honor, and the National Association of Broadcasters has given $20,000."

Did you catch that? Eli Lilly says it donated to "Congressman Buyer's foundation" because it felt that it was "a worthy cause." Yet, Buyer's press secretary says the foundation is not Congressman Buyer's. Hmmm...something doesn't add up here. Again, this is must-read stuff.

Kudos to the Lafayette Journal and Courier and writer David Smith for bringing this important story to light.

WTHR, Channel 13, has picked up the story.


Anonymous said...

It's even worse. According to the 2009 filing with the Indiana Secretary of State, Buyer's daughter, Colleen Buyer, and his son, Ryan Buyer, are listed as directors of the Frontier Foundation. Ryan Buyer's address is listed as the same as Steve Buyer's.

The donors to the Frontier Foundation are a subset of those who also give to his Storm Chasers PAC. Clearly the travel expenses and the salary of Mattix are political expenses masked as charitable expenses.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Thanks for bringing this up. I'll have to check out the Channel 13 link and pull down those form 990s to see what Buyer's daughter has been making for all her hard work of not awarding any scholarships.

Buyer needs to go.