Saturday, August 06, 2011

Of buzzards, road kill, charity scams and the Texas Highway Patrol Association

This morning Grits received a solicitation phone call from a telemarketer who said he was from the "Texas Highway Patrol," calling because "we've lost two troopers recently" and they wanted to "raise money for their families."

"So you're from the Department of Public Safety?," I asked. He evaded, repeating that he was calling from the highway patrol. "So you're calling from the Department of Public Safety," I repeated, "because the highway patrol is part of DPS?" At first he said "yes," he was from DPS, then backtracked and equivocated. I pressed and he told me he was paid by a museum in San Antonio. "So you told me you're from the highway patrol raising money for families of dead troopers but really you're from a museum in San Antonio?" He said "No, that's why I said at the beginning I'm calling from the Texas Highway Patrol Association." He had in fact never said the word "association" before that moment. At that point I told him I wouldn't be giving him any money and he should tell his supervisor to expect a complaint to the Attorney General. I'm certainly not giving a dime to somebody on the phone who I've caught in a bold-faced lie.

Afterward, I got online to discover that the Better Business Bureau in the past has recommended against giving money to this organization. A 2008 report from KSAT-TV in San Antonio declared that:
The Texas Highway Patrol Museum, located at 812 South Alamo St., isn't a large San Antonio attraction, but the museum and its parent office raise large sums of donations, according to a KSAT Defenders investigation.

During one donation drive, telemarketers working on behalf of the Texas Highway Patrol Association raised $1.8 million with the story of Trooper Todd Holmes, who was killed in a traffic collision while on duty.The organization donated $12,500 to Holmes' family, according to state records.

Because of the organization's expenses, including a salary of $182,872 for its executive vice president, four luxury vehicles and salaries totaling $1.1 million, the Better Business Bureau of Houston advises potential givers to not donate to the Texas Highway Patrol Association.
According to the THPA Web site, the organization is not affiliated with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the umbrella agency that oversees the Texas Highway Patrol.
I checked the Texas Attorney General's website where groups raising money for law enforcement are required to register and found this form (pdf) from FY 2009 documenting their finances. The group raised $2,142,914 in that year and roughly 90% - $1,925,835 - was spent on fundraising costs. (Another page on the AG's site says fundraising costs that year were only 32%, but that doesn't jibe with the documentation filed by THPA.) A nonprofit spending 90% of contributions on fundraising isn't a legitimate charity, IMO it's a straight-up hustle.

What a sleazy business model, picking the bones of dead troopers! Maybe it's legal, but if so the law is doing little to protect the public from manipulative solicitations on behalf of law enforcement. The THPA telemarketer flat-out misrepresented who he was to me, and by all accounts only the tiniest fraction of donations goes for the purpose they say: supporting families of dead DPS officers. This group is about as much about helping troopers as buzzards are about helping roadkill.


Anonymous said...

In Brooklyn, there is a similar scam about beat cops, and it includes a vaguely threatening recitation of your address before they ask for money. I once told them I'd be reporting the call, and was told that the caller "would keep that in mind." I asked if he was a cop and he hung up.

Anonymous said...

That's why I no longer donate to United Way. They require their child agencies to hold expenses to ten percent, but they themselves run expenses to sixteen percent or better.

I would recommend to anyone that if you have a favorite charity or cause, that you donate to them directly.

Anonymous said...

Get on the Texas No Call List at

Anonymous said...


ALL of the phone solicitors are a ripoff. Getting called by numerous ones, I have a habit of asking the percentage given vs what's used to 'cover overhead". Never lower than 80 percent for "overhead". But what is really upsetting is that some otherwise legit law enforcement associations have allowed their names to be associated with these hucksters. One has to ask why the AG refused ot address these groups. :~)

Arce said...


When I was in San Antonio, there was one of these law officers benefit associations that officed in the same building I was in. The owners of the operation all drove Jags and the like and even the phone crew guys were fairly well paid. But only a small percentage of the funds ever when to anything remotely "charitable". One time, the money was used to organize and sponsor a golf tournament that the fund-raising operation guys were comped into, and the net amount raised was from the fees for the gullible golfers.

Anonymous said...

This scam has been going on for decades. I ask them for their badge # and ID. Naturally they say that they are not patrolmen or whatever and continue their spiel. I tell them that what they are doing is against the law and threaten to report them. They hang up very quickly. But sure as I am alive there will be another call coming next year.

not securely anchored said...

They sent promotional materials through the mail when I told them I did not respond to telephone solicitations. In the mean time I googled them. Granddaughter has two bright red stickers for her sticker book.

Anonymous said...

When the Legislature tried to outlaw these telemarketer for cops, the Texas Fraternal Order of Police testified loudly against it. They are on the AG's list you have linked. They don't give it to the officers or families.

phillip baker said...

Isn't this the same - or current incarnation of- group that's been running this scam since the 1940's? Years ago- in the 70's or 80's- Texas Monthly did a long piece on them. The dates could be wrong- I've been accused of gettin' old lol- but it was quite awhile back.

I have a friend who worked for a similar bunch here in Austin. He got paid $10/hr and made them over $100/hr. They liked him! A lot!

Anonymous said...

Good enough for those who would choose to donate money to law enforcement. Let them be ripped-off, serves them well. A fool and his money.....

Stephen Bright said...

Junk mail solicitations involve the same misrepresentation and are as much a ripoff. The champion junk mail distributor in the United States is Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Using various aliases and schemes over the last 40 years, Dees has raised so much that the Center now has $220 million, as well as two buildings in Montgomery, Alabama after 40 years of very high operating costs.

Harper’s Magazine reported in 2000 that Dees had promised to stop fund raising once the endowment reached $55 million, but then changed it to $100 million. Nevertheless, although the endowment had reached $120 million by 2000, Harper’s found the Center “spends most of its time – and money – on a relentless fund-raising campaign.”

Harper’s also pointed out that the year before the Center had raised $27 million in donations and received another $17 million from investments, but spent only $13 million on its work.

Even with $220 million, Dees still sends out junk mail under various names and schemes – such as Klan Watch, Wall of Tolerance, and Teaching Tolerance. He sends letters signed by celebrities imploring people to give the Center money to support its "dangerous" work "against the forces of hate, injustice, and intolerance."

It is a fraud. The money raised will be spent to send out more junk mail to raise more money.

Anonymous said...


An endowment of 220 million gives an operating budget of $6.6 million (@3%)when the funding dries up in a recession. Sounds like a smart business model to me. Dees reported $6 million in legal services being provided and quite a few more millions in publications for education, etc. Also tends to be the one tracking hate groups and more importantly - distributing the info (I like his magazine!).

I may not be enamoured with his salary - $300,000+ - but in my case it's probably simply jealousy. And it's reasonable for something built over 40 years.

The difference between him and the hucksters claiming to be cop supporters is that he is addressing what he promises to address. Just like the Red Cross.

Oh, and his financials are on his website - a direct link is on the home page - unlike the Southern Center for Human Rights.

So, now tell us the rest of the reason for the hard feelings.

Anonymous said...

There certainly are good, charity organizations that represent peace officers, but this is a rip off outfit that should be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Executive pay at $300,000 a year? That wouldn't even include a marked parking spot at the Pecan Street Project -- or among the higher echelons of Austin Energy.

Anonymous said...

One of the primary reasons the U.S. post office is losing money is the incredibly cheap rates given to charities and non-profits that enables them to blast millions of pieces of mail into our mail boxes soliciting more and more money. If you ever contribute to the March of Dimes, the VFW, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sierra Club, or a hundred other non-profits you will soon discover just how popular you are.

Anonymous said...

It is worth noting that the Texas Highway Patrol Association is operated by disgraced former State Rep Lane Denton, a convicted felon found guilty in 1995 of diverting $67,201 from the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association (a legitimate organization) while serving as its executive director in 1988-89.