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Check Out Charities Before Donating, Atty. Gen. Warns

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Californians considering charitable donations during this holiday season should beware, Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren said Thursday, because less than one-third of the money collected by commercial fund-raisers reaches its intended recipients.

The rest gets diverted to salaries and other expenses for the people who raise the money, according to Lungren, the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

“It is not my desire to scare Californians away from giving to charities,” Lungren said in a statement. “I prefer to encourage charitable giving to the many good charities which desperately need our support.”

The annual report, compiled from information the fund-raisers are required to file with the state, listed charities according to how much they received from the money raised on their behalf. It focused only on charities that employ commercial fund-raisers and not those that raise money with their own, in-house appeals.

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In 1992, the report said, 121 commercial fund-raisers registered with the attorney general’s office. They reported raising $88 million in California and giving $29 million to charities.

Among those charities that received all of the donations raised for them by commercial outfits were the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Nature Conservancy.

On the other end of the scale, many law enforcement-oriented groups were listed among those that received the lowest percentage of money contributed to their causes. Of 138 groups receiving 15% or less of the money collected for them, 49 were affiliated with police or firefighting organizations.

Dave Puglia, Lungren’s chief spokesman, said the attorney general in past years noticed the concentration of public safety groups at the low end of the scale but has not done anything to target them.

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“We just report the facts and let people know what’s going on out there,” Puglia said.

In a related development, Lungren’s office said the state has settled a lawsuit filed against the Walker Cancer Research Institute, which raised $9.3 million over a three-year period but provided only about $68,000 to its stated purpose.

Lungren said the organization, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to stop doing business in California and to establish a fund of $185,000 to be spent on cancer research.


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