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11/23: Ex-Minutemen want harder look at group's finances
Released 24 November 2006  By Susan Carroll - Houston Chronicle

Ex-Minutemen want harder look at group's finances

By Susan Carroll
Houston Chronicle
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.23.2006

HOUSTON - For the first time, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corp. has revealed
a smattering of intriguing details on its finances, but some former members
want to know more about how the group has spent hundreds of thousands of
dollars in contributors' money.

Chris Simcox, the founder of nonprofit border watch group, posted IRS forms
and an audit on his Internet site Nov. 15 in response to media reports
raising concerns about how the group was handling its contributions.

"Just too many irregularities"

The new documents offer a glimpse into the organization's finances, former
Minuteman loyalists say, but leave several unanswered questions.

Among them: How are the Minutemen spending thousands of dollars in
membership fees they've collected over the past 19 months? And what
companies or other nonprofits received $277,000 - amounting to more than
half the group's contributions in 2005 - for unspecified "personnel
services?"

Already, questions about the group's finances and other concerns have
prompted some leaders to quit. Bill Parmley, the former head of the Texas
chapter of the MCDC, was one of the first leaders to leave in July 2005.

"There were just too many irregularities," Parmley said in an interview this
week. "I just didn't want to be involved in something like that."

Simcox and his spokeswoman, Connie Hair, did not respond to repeated phone
calls or messages. In barnstorming stops across the country last year,
Simcox told crowds of new recruits that the organization charged a mandatory
$50 membership fee for background checks. He made exceptions for anyone who
already had a concealed-weapons permit, which requires an extensive
background check, and for former law-enforcement officers.

Questions surface over $50 fee

But the group's recently posted IRS Form 990 - a public record required for
all nonprofits - shows the group spent only $1,074 on background checks for
volunteers in 2005 while charging new recruits $50 each and collecting more
than $54,000 in registration fees.

Kenneth Buelter and his wife, Daphne, former Minuteman loyalists, recalled
meetings where MCDC leaders explained the $50 fee. "They told us it was for
background checks," said Daphne Buelter. Months later, the couple decided to
distance themselves from the movement, even though they still believe in the
cause. "There were a great deal of unanswered questions," Daphne Buelter
said.

The records Simcox posted on the Web seem to answer some of the more serious
questions raised by former MCDC members this summer. The audit Simcox made
public shows an accredited firm signed off on the group's finances for the
2005 tax year. IRS documents filed by the organization showed that it
received more than $418,000 in contributions during 2005 and owed about
$31,000 at the end of the tax year.

Independent accountants who reviewed the report at the Houston Chronicle's
request said the MCDC's finances appear to be in line with many
not-for-profits that are just starting out. Simcox defended the spending on
the group's Web site. According to the IRS documents, the MCDC dedicated
62.5 percent of contributions to programs, 5.2 percent to management and
administration and 32.3 percent to fundraising.

In his Web posting, Simcox wrote that the breakdown was "much better than
most first-year start-up national organizations." He also lashed out at the
press for stories questioning the group's financing, accusing the media of
"egregiously false or erroneous reporting as well as some outright malicious
lies."

Group started in Arizona

The Minuteman Project, the original name for the civilian patrol group,
kicked off in April 2005 in Arizona amid a media frenzy.

Parmley, who joined the movement out of frustration over the relentless flow
of illegal immigrants across his ranch in South Texas, said he resigned
mainly because he was concerned about suspicions of racist attitudes in one
Minuteman branch. But he said he was also troubled because he couldn't get a
straight answer on money management, including what happened to the
registration fees.

Kim Fromme, the former director of operations for the Minuteman chapter in
Texas, had similar concerns and quit in February. He said he could never
figure out where the money for programs was going. "It didn't go down to the
border, that's for sure," Fromme said.

He said he and other members approached Simcox with questions but came away
disappointed. The MCDC still has plenty of supporters who rallied behind
Simcox in the group's Internet forum.

"Thanks," one posting read, "this should clear up everything, even a kid in
grammar school can now understand (it) . Way to go."


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