MIA Facts Site

"Show Me The Money:"
Using the MIA Issue to
Raise Money (lots of it)

 

Summary.  One of the little known facets of the MIA issue is that of individuals and groups who use the MIA issue to raise money.  Groups who do this fall into two categories: (1) Grass-roots organizations who really are working to keep the MIA issue in the public eye, and (2) those who are making money off the issue.  This article relies on the final report of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIAs (the SSC).   I recommend strongly that interested folks read the book by  Susan Katz-Keating, Prisoners of Hope.  Ms. Keating started off supporting the "activist" point of view.  She became known to several of them and they talked with her.  She soon realized that their views were not in accord with reality so she produced an investigative work that spilled the beans on many of them and that was documented.  She has been attacked by the "activists" for fabricating portions of the book but none of them dare sue her because they know that she has the documents.

Background:  The SSC Report

Almost since the days of the Vietnam War, there have been groups who have been using the plight of prisoners and missing to raise money for their cause.  The National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, the oldest family organization, has stayed alive through donations.  Other grass roots organizations are not so well known -- their members include families of missing men, veterans, and concerned citizens.  I could go on and on about these groups and their activities but the best source is the report of the SSC.  

The complete SSC report can be found on this URL:  http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/pow/senate_house/pdf/report_S.pdf.

The relevant section of the report  is “Chapter 6:  Private Efforts”, pages 301-345. 

To make things easier, I have downloaded the "Private Efforts" section of the SSC report and reproduced it at the following links.  On each page I have put a link to the other sections and back to this page.  Take some time to read the report -- it is long but it is eye-opening.

The complete SSC Report (on Library of Congress server)
Private Efforts:  Section 1  (on this site)
Private Efforts:  Section 2  (on this site)
Private Efforts:  Section 3  (on this site)

 

Selected Quotes From the SSC Report

Here are some quotes from the SSC report that deal with some of my least favorite people.

Jack Bailey

Bailey is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who claims to be a colonel and to be something of a war hero.  Check him out in Prisoners of Hope.

Bailey has two stories.  The first deals with his boat that will not float, the Akuna II, and the other is about his sources and contacts.

Akuna II

Bailey's first story is that he owns a boat -- the Akuna II --  that is (was, actually; he's been out of business since the mid-1990s) docked in southern Thailand.  From there, he cruises out into the Gulf of Siam, rescuing Vietnamese boat refugees who, out of their gratitude for  being rescued, tell him where US POWs are located in Vietnam.   In one of his fund raising letters, Bailey issued this appeal.  It was mailed out to thousands of people via a mass-mailing operation and was printed so as to appear that it was handwritten on yellow legal paper.  The letter, signed by Bailey, stated that he was on the rolling deck of the Akuna II as it set out for another rescue mission.  The letter went on to say that it costs a lot of money to operate this boat and asked that people respond immediately with donations.

I was in the DIA Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs at the time that this letter was written.  We received several copies from family members.  About the same time, we received a copy of a message from the US Consulate in southern Thailand to the Department of State.  It seems that the Thai maritime officials in the port where the Akuna II was docked wanted the boat out of their harbor because it had not moved in 2-3 years and the crew -- two guys living on the boat -- had no idea how to operate it.   The following paragraph is part of the message from the US Consul to the Department of State:

. . .  [the Akuna] has been anchored in Songkhla for
     roughly two years (Actually three), never leaving its
     mooring . . .  The Akuna has not performed any useful
     service, and that it has not received maintenance for a
     long time.  In this regard, it notes that the skeleton
     crew of two watching over the ship has absolutely no
     knowledge of how to maintain it. 

. . . we are in contact

Another of Bailey's favorite ploys was to put out a mass mail fund raising appeal in which he claimed that he had sources who were in contact with  or about to make contact with a US POWs.  Needless to say, he never made such contact and it is unlikely that any such contact was imminent. 

Read the SSC report sections for a full layout of Bailey's scams.

And the Money Rolls In

Here is the conclusion from the SSC report about Bailey's Operation Rescue:

Operation Rescue employed Eberle and Associates as its professional
fundraisers from 1983 through 1986. Bruce Eberle is the chairman of
the board and a majority owner of Eberle & Associates, a Vienna,
Virginia based direct marketing company which provides fundraising
services to nonprofit and for profit organizations.  Linda Canada,
an employee of Eberle & Associates, and handled Jack Bailey's
Operation Rescue, Inc. account.  
In approximately three years Eberle prepared more than 40
solicitations on behalf of Operation Rescue and mailed them to
hundreds of thousands of potential donors at bulk rates.  They
brought in contributions of approximately $2 million.  

Ted Sampley

One individual who deserves special mention is Ted Sampley, a former Special Forces troop now living in Kinston, NC.  Sampley puts on a "good old boy, aw' shucks" persona.  In fact, he is quite intelligent and crafty.  He is also mean to the bone.  Sampley has adopted the standard tactics of the bully and the demagogue.

Tactics

Sampley is master of the attack.  He publishes a newspaper, The US Veterans Dispatch -- search for it on the WWW where he has a web site.  If anyone disagrees with him, Sampley immediately publishes a junk-yard dog attack on that person in his newspaper.

He never responds when he is shown to be wrong.  Here is an example of his tactics.  In late 1999, on the newsgroup alt.war.vietnam, an individual signing the name "Buck" posted a remembrance of several men from the 9th Infantry Division who were killed in action on 5 December 1967.  In January 2000., Sampley posted an article attacking "Buck" and claiming that there were not six men killed on 5 December 1967 as Buck recalled but that there were 15 men killed in October 1967 -- Sampley listed their names -- then he proceeded to challenge "Buck's" veracity and combat record.

Very quickly, other members of the newsgroup pointed out that Sampley had it screwed up. 

bulletFirst, Buck responded that he had the date wrong -- the correct date was 4 December 1967.
bulletA check of records showed that soldiers who fit the description posted by "Buck" from the 9th Division were KIA on 4 December 1967.
bulletFurther checks showed that of the 15 men cited by Sampley, none were in the 9th Division -- Buck's unit -- and one of the men Sampley listed was not even KIA.
bulletThus, Buck was right and Sampley was wrong in every respect.
bulletSampley never responded.  He simply let his attack on Buck lie there, knowing that his supporters would stick with him.

Raising Money

Sampley's method of raising money on the MIA issue is well-documented by Keating in Prisoners of Hope, pages 193 - 205.  The following discussion comes from Keating's book.

Sampley was part of an organization called "Homecoming II."  Homecoming II operated a "vigil booth" on the Mall in Washington, near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  At the booth, Homecoming sold T-shirts and other souvenirs, all of the material bearing various MIA slogans and graphics. 

The problem started when Homecoming started selling items that carried a likeness of The Three Servicemen statue.   The Three Servicemen statue is a copyrighted product with the copyright owned jointly by the sculptor, Frederick Hart, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.  The fund uses a portion of its proceeds to help maintain the Memorial.  The Fund asked Sampley to stop using the statue's likeness on his souvenirs.   Sampley refused and responded with an attack on Jan Scruggs (of the Memorial Fund) and Hart, the sculptor.   Sampley accused them of being scam artists, making a profit off the pain of those who had lost loved ones in Vietnam.  He accused Hart of making a fortune off the statue; in fact, Hart keeps none of the royalties earned from sales of the statue's likeness.   Meanwhile, Sampley claimed that he and Homecoming II were using the income from their T-shirt and souvenir sales to support POW information projects.

Sampley's operation was exposed when he was sued by the Memorial Fund to stop using the statue's likeness.  Before suits go to trial there is a period of discovery during which each side submits questions to the court that must be answered by the other side.  The result, as documented by Keating, was the release of documents outlining Sampley's method of making money off the vigil booth while appearing to be a penniless vet working for his brothers. 

bulletSampley set up a company, Red Hawk,  that manufactured T-shirts and sold them to Homecoming II.
bulletHomecoming II sold the T-shirts at the vigil booth, mainly for cash.
bulletAuthor Susan Katz Keating dug into the court records and concluded:

QUOTE

"Documents filed with the court revealed the extent to which Sampley made use of the statue and, indeed the entire POW issue.

"The material showed that he had created a self-contained financial network that revolved around POWs and MIAs.  One of Sampley's companies, Red Hawk, manufactured POW T-shirts and sold them to his nonprofit Homecoming II, which in turn sold them at the vigil booth.  Although Sampley could say he was destitute, with only one personal checking account containing $100, the organizations were quite healthy.,   His reported earnings from the cash-only T-shirt concession amounted to nearly $2 million over three years.

"The cash flow was abundant.  In August 1991 alone, Homecoming II wrote ten checks to Red Hawk, totaling more than $18,000.  Some of the checks were written on the same day or only a few days apart.

-- Prisoners of Hope, Susan Katz Keating, Page 201.  
-- Note from page 254:  "Copies of Sampley's financial records are in the author's     files."

The SSC Speaks on Sampley

Here is the conclusion of the SSC regarding Sampley:

Homecoming II reported to the IRS that it paid Ted Sampley, its
founder and the publisher of U.S. Veteran News and Report, more
than $300,000, ostensibly for t-shirts sold at Homecoming II's
stand at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Sampley has fought all efforts by the National Park Service to stop
merchandising the t-shirts and other merchandising on national park
property, and at publication time was involved in a lawsuit over
his right to use the picture of the memorial statue without paying
the artist. Another lawsuit, against the National League of
Families, also is pending.  Despite promises of cooperation,
Sampley refused to provide financial records to the Committee for
his tax-exempt organization.

Conclusion

The conclusion of this article is the same as the beginning:  There are grass roots groups whose members are doing what they can to keep the MIA issue in the public eye.  Most of these are staffed by volunteers and, in spite of the fact that many of them are spreading misinformation, they are generally honest in their efforts.  On the other hand, there are people like Bailey, Sampley, Shinkle, Hendon, and others listed in the SSC report -- many of whom have made a good living off the grief of families and the sacrifice of missing men.