Charitable front: Wisconsin man exploits loopholes to funnel millions supposedly for charities to himself
When John D. Wiley got a phone call last August from a group asking for money to help veterans, he hesitated at first.
The group, called the US Veterans Assistance Foundation, said it was raising money for injured and disabled veterans who were not getting their appropriate benefits, said Wiley, a former University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor who retired in 2011.
Though it may sound like one, the US Veterans Assistance Foundation is not a charity. It is a federally registered political action committee, or PAC, a fact the solicitor did not disclose on the call, Wiley said.
Wiley’s donation, along with hundreds of others the PAC has received over the last two years, has not gone to veterans. Instead, it has largely gone into the pockets of the man who established it: Robert Piaro.
The FEC has limited authority to do anything about the growth of scam PACs, said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, who studies PAC activity.
“The FEC can only administer the laws that are administered by Congress,” he said. “They don’t give the FEC many tools to fight scam PACs.”