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For the week of Oct. 27, 1999 through Nov. 2, 1999

Thinking twice about telephone solicitations

Commentary by PAT MURPHY


Perhaps you were among Wood River Valleyites who received dinnertime calls from a smoothie drumming up donations to the "Idaho State Fraternal Order of Police."

I say "smoothie" because he used first names of those who answered, he was a model of courtesy and skilled in his spiel—donations, which, he said, go to death benefits and retirement of peace officers.

Well, not exactly.

If you shelled out $35 for the FOP bumper sticker he offered, you helped enrich a fund-raising outfit more than police and their families.

The phone solicitor is not an Idaho police officer, but an employee of Civic Development, a professional Newark, N.J., fund-raising outfit.

Much of FOP’s share will go for lobbying Idaho legislators for more benefits to members of FOP, which in law enforcement circles is considered more of a labor union. The Idaho FOP has 500 members out of 2,200 sworn peace officers in the state.

The "Idaho State Fraternal Order of Police" as of last week would receive 36 cents on the dollar or $58,000 of the $160,000 collected so far, while the remaining $102,000 (or 64 cents per dollar) goes into the pockets of Civic Development.

All this information comes from the genial state FOP president, Detective Rick Cudahy, of the Lewiston police department, whom I tracked down and asked about the solicitation, which hit my household twice (we declined to give).

When I asked the phone solicitor for literature, he insisted it’s "too expensive." When I asked for a phone number I could call for more information, he gave the toll-free number of a West Virginia (!) answering service.

The operator there gave me FOP addresses in Idaho Falls and Moscow. But US West said it has no listings for the "Idaho State Fraternal Order of Police" anywhere in the state.

The Idaho attorney general’s office was of no help. The Blaine County sheriff’s office knew nothing about the solicitations.

Finally, an Idaho Falls police officer gave me Cudahy’s name, whom I reached in Lewiston for an amiable chat.

Cudahy defended the fund-raiser receiving a larger cut than the FOP. He said FOP’s guaranteed $50,000 plus an $8,000 "signing bonus" with Civil Development was fair, since the fund-raiser bears costs of the solicitation.

He also said the FOP is so sold on Civic Development that the FOP is trying to persuade the fund-raiser to establish a call center in Boise.

But the National Charities Information Bureau would look askance at FOP’s arrangement with Civic development.

NCIB’s official guidelines warn about solicitors who won’t provide literature because it’s "too costly," as the FOP solicitor told me, and to be wary of fund-raising beneficiaries who receive less than 60 cents on every dollar.

FOP’s paltry cut of as little as 36 cents on the dollar flunks national charity standards and sure flunks my test for being a soft touch.

Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator

 

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