Veterans' Charities, PAC Shut Doors Amid Fundraising Scrutiny

Homeless veteran. Getty Images
Homeless veteran. Getty Images

A Virginia-based political action committee purportedly established to support veterans' issues was disbanded Saturday amid questions over its fundraising and expense practices.

The Put Vets First! PAC filed termination paperwork Saturday with the Federal Election Commission, according to a report Monday by the Center for Public Integrity. The PAC appears to have followed the same fundraising and expense patterns as two affiliated nonprofits, all established by a retired Army Reserve major. The organizations raised millions but donated little to veterans causes or candidates.

Founded by Brian Arthur Hampton, the organizations began pulling in cash around 2013, when Hampton hired telemarketing firms to conduct fundraising. Yet according to Internal Revenue Service tax filings, the groups gave little of those earnings to veterans' causes, instead paying most of the money back to the telemarketing firms and covering administrative costs, including salaries.

The PAC, for example, raised $4.8 million, with the telemarketers netting $4.4 million and Hampton receiving $183,500 in salary, according to the report.

In 2018, it gave a mere $9,000 to support nine Democrat and Republican candidates, none of whom won their elections. And since 2010, when it was founded, the PAC has only given a total $15,000 to candidates.

As for the veterans' charities, the Center for American Homeless Veterans and Circle of Friends for American Veterans, they too raked in millions, largely due to work by the telemarketing fundraising firm Outreach Calling, of Reno, Nevada.

In 2016, the Center for American Homeless Veterans raised $3.5 million. Of that, $3.04 million went to two telemarketing firms and Hampton received a salary of $197,000, according to Internal Revenue Service forms posted on Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator.

Circle of Friends that year took in $1.16 million, with fundraising fees totaling $1 million and Hampton earning $105,000.

The organizations have been the subject of media scrutiny as well as investigations by the attorneys general of New York and Virginia since 2017. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the Falls Church, Virginia, headquarters of all three organizations is now vacant.

Hampton did not respond to a request from Military.com for comment via email or phone.

Hampton is a Vietnam veteran who retired from the Army Reserve in 1992. He once ran a transitional shelter for homeless veterans in Washington, D.C., but shifted his organization's focus to outreach and education.

In 2016, he listed the activities for the Center for American Homeless Veterans as advocating for veterans bills on Capitol Hill, conducting media campaigns focusing on veterans support and promoting candidates favorable to veterans.

The Circle of Friends for American Veterans "creates awareness of the problems facing veterans while educating the public and Congress of solutions for veterans, especially homeless veterans," according to its tax reporting forms.

While the charities still exist on the Internal Revenue Service's list of tax-exempt organizations, both groups' web sites have been taken down. The Put Vets First! PAC's site also has been removed.

The New York Attorney General's Office continues to investigate the Center for American Homeless Veterans, according to the Center for Public Integrity report.

For now, Hampton, in his 70s, appears to be transitioning into retirement in a $1 million home he owns in Arlington, Virginia.

He has established a new website and is putting the finishing touches on a book, SAIGON WARRIORS, PSYOP in Vietnam, They Ran the War for Hearts & Minds. Hampton was a psychological operations soldier during the war, according to site.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

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