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Lungren Warns Donors About Fund-Raisers

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 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.

At least nine Orange County charities listed by the attorney general received less than 15% of money raised on their behalf, including two law enforcement groups.

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The Disabled Peace Officers Assn. of Huntington Beach received 11% of the $224,894 raised for them by Tele-Telesis Productions of Anaheim, according to the attorney general.

Anthony Darrigo, who heads the association, was a sergeant with Orange County marshal’s office for 19 years and is now retired on disability. He said that his contract with Tele-Telesis provides for a guaranteed payment to the organization for the right to use its name--regardless of how much money is raised, or if no money is raised.

“For me to get $25,000 means that I can help lots of policemen all over the state,” Darrigo said. “We have given out $200,000 since 1988. . . . I’m blessed that I get $25,000 from Tele-Telesis.”

Darrigo said his organization has no paid staff or board members, does not advertise and operates out of an office in his Huntington Beach garage.

Tele-Telesis also raised $292,318 for the Orange County Firemen’s Assn. of Santa Ana, but the association received more than 20% of those funds, according to the state. Representatives of the company could not be reached for comment.

The Orange County chapter of the Marshals’ Assn. of California, received 13% of the $133,961 raised by Stuart Bradley Productions Inc. of Walnut Creek. Representatives of both organizations could not be reached Thursday.

At least four of the Orange County groups identified as turning over less than 15% of funds have been associated with Irvine fund-raiser Mitchell Gold and the for-profit organization, Orange County Charitable Services.

One of the charitable groups, Stop the Pain Inc., received 1% of the $368,459 raised on its behalf by Orange County Charitable Services, according to the attorney general. Stop the Pain’s address, on Technology Drive, is the same one listed for the fund-raising group.

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In November of 1992, the attorney general’s office filed suit against Gold and Orange County Charitable Services, charging that of the $8 million raised since 1988, less than 5% went to charities.

Orange County Charitable Services’ telephone number has been disconnected, and Gold did not return a telephone call Thursday.

However, in an earlier interview with The Times, Gold said that “actually around 10%" of the funds went to charities, and that those charities that shared office space with his fund-raising group were separate operations.

Gold said he was an honest businessman who was being “harassed” by the attorney general’s office.

“We are legal. We are licensed,” he said. “We are bonded. . . . And no charity has complained.”

Times staff writer Mark I. Pinsky contributed to this report


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