Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Washington Lt. Gov. Grew Nonprofit On Taxpayer Money

Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and his staff used taxpayer-funded time to help conduct the operations of the nonprofit that he funded, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Strategies for Youth (SFY), an anti-bullying nonprofit, was shut down last year in part because of costs and Owen's other work as Lt. Governor. Before that, however, the AP found that Owen had for years made the organization an extension of his office, using taxpayer-funded time to run its operations. He also worked with lobbyists to raise money for the nonprofit. In one case, an Owen aide made plans to honor a lobbyist who donated to the organization with awards at a charity dinner and auction.

Owen told the AP that he saw no conflict of interest in asking lobbyists to raise money for the organization, saying that SFY's goal of helping kids is the same goal of his office.

Although Owen received no pay for his role as president of SFY, his wife, Linda, was paid a salary of $25,000 during the span of a few years. She was the only person receiving a salary, and her pay accounted for 10 percent of SFY's expenditures. The nonprofit also provided Owen and his family with a number of benefits, including the use of a $33,000 truck. In addition, Owen's staff repeatedly organized fundraisers for the organization, including one in 2010 called "Everyday People Doing Extraordinary Things."

E-mails from within Owen's office indicate that his staff spent hours doing fundraising work for SFY. One staffer worked more than 100 hours for the nonprofit in recent years. Owen initially denied reports of his aides doing fundraising work from the office but, after being shown e-mails by the AP, he acknowledged one individual may have made mistakes by conducting SFY activity from the office.

When Owen was first elected as Lt. Gov., he and the charity signed an agreement to work together and share resources. That contract was drafted with the help of Senate lawyers, according to Owen, who is currently running for re-election against Republican Bill Finkbeiner.

You can read the full story in The Associated Press.

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