CNN left out that the head of the “worst” rated veterans org is also a high-ranking VA attorney within the agency and runs its Homeland Security operations.
CNN recently outted VA attorney J. Thomas Burch Jr for running National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, one of the worst rated veteran charities in the country. National Vietnam Veterans Foundation only donated $122,000 to veterans of its $8.6 million raised in 2014.
VA ATTORNEY BACKGROUND
For some reason or another, CNN happened to leave out that Burch is not just a VA attorney, but a high-ranking VA attorney who has a stranglehold on reporter Freedom of Information Act requests with VA Office of General Counsel. He is also the VA Deputy Director of Homeland Security & Operations. And, he is also a longtime DC insider with deep connections to the Republican party.
More on that later, but it certainly made me wonder how or why CNN would leave those details out. What about that CNN?
CNN ON J THOMAS BURCH JR
According to CNN, NVVF used the funds for questionable purposes in 2014 including over $8,000 for parking, likely for Burch’s Rolls Royce.
Yes, the man drives a Rolls Royce that even has a license plate saying “MY ROLLS”. When CNN tried to confront him about spending, he sped off in the black beauty.
NVVF’s listed expenses for 2014 included:
“$133,000 for travel, $21,000 for unnamed “awards”, $70,000 for a category described as “other expenses” and even a little more than $8,000 for parking.”
Burch’s salary was $65,000 for working 30 hours while also receiving $127,000 for his full-time work as VA attorney.
In light of these numbers, I found myself wondering how this elderly veteran finds the time and energy to put in 70 hours per week. Or is he skimping on his VA duties?
Here is what the CNN coverage left out.
MORE ON J THOMAS BURCH JR
Speaking of duties, Burch even has two jobs at VA. He is the leading Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) attorney for the VA Office of General Counsel. He is also the Deputy Director of Homeland Security and Operations at VA.
Homeland Security at VA? Yes, that is right.
I spoke with him in 2014 about a FOIA request when he identified himself as Deputy Director. When I asked him “Of what?” he replied with the rest of his title. When I asked him “why” VA has such a position, he swiftly hung up the phone.
After digging a little, I learned that Burch is a well-connected DC insider who has long enjoyed deep connections within certain conservative circles.
In 1988, he petitioned the Bush Administration for a position in the Department of Defense:
“I would very much like to serve as a confirmation by Senate appointee in the Department of Defense during the Bush administration. I have a particular interest in the position of either Under Secretary of the Army or Assistant Secretary of Defense (Acquisitions and Logistics).”
Can you ever imagine ever making such a brazen petition?
J THOMAS BURCH JR TOOK OUT JOHN MCCAIN
In 2000, he openly criticized Senator John McCain during the presidential election cycle in support of George W. Bush. His statements as reported by the NY Times resulted in significant rebuke from numerous Senators:
On Thursday Mr. Bush shared a stage in Sumter, S.C., with J. Thomas Burch Jr., chairman of the National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Committee, who said Mr. McCain, hailed as a hero for surviving five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, had opposed measures dealing with Agent Orange and gulf war syndrome as well as legislation to help families of soldiers missing in action in Vietnam.
”He came home, forgot us,” Mr. Burch said.
In the letter to Mr. Bush, the senators said: ”We are writing to express our dismay at the misinformed accusations leveled by your surrogate.”
”These allegations are absolutely false,” said the letter signed by Senators Max Cleland of Georgia, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Charles S. Robb of Virginia, all Democrats, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican and one of Mr. McCain’s few supporters in the Senate.
”Indeed,” it went on, ”Mr. Burch was a leading critic of President Reagan’s and your father’s policies on POW/MIA issues, and he vehemently opposed a historic effort led by the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs carried out on a bipartisan basis which resulted in the declassification of millions of documents and the identification and return to the United States of the remains of hundreds of American servicemen who were missing in action.”
The senators wrote that Mr. McCain was a leader on veterans issues. ”We hope you will publicly disassociate yourself from these efforts, and apologize to Senator McCain.”
J THOMAS BURCH JR TOOK OUT JOHN KERRY
And in 2004, he criticized then Senator John Kerry during the swift boat hoopla:
John Thomas Burch Jr. has been fighting the Vietnam War on many fronts.
An official at the Veterans Affairs Department, he has also overseen a lucrative but little-known veterans fundraising group and served as a Bush campaign surrogate willing to scorch war heroes on veterans issues.
Now, as the Bush campaign targets Kerry’s Vietnam-era record, Burch, a Vietnam vet too, appears poised to re-enter the campaign fray.
Last year, he registered the Internet domain names veteransforkerry.org and veteransforkerry.com (the domain names as published have been corrected in this text).
Neither Web site is up and running–it is not clear if Burch registered them to prevent Kerry from having the names or for some other reason. Burch did not respond to requests for comment.
Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade said he assumes this was an attempt to make mischief with the senator’s campaign.
“I suspect they plan to fill cyberspace with all kinds of vicious lies,” Wade said. “The same gang that slandered John McCain is going to try the same, under-the-radar-screen sneak attacks to mislead veterans and distort John Kerry’s record.”
One thing is certain: Burch has been a longtime foe of the Democratic contender.
(Apparently, Burch had a bipartisan disliking of anyone named “John” who was running for president.)
The operative phrase here was that Burch “lucrative but little-known veterans fundraising group”. So the Chicago Tribune references his group as a “fundraising group” that apparently everyone knew was “lucrative”. Well, everyone except the donors given money to a nonprofit they likely believed would then redistribute the money to veterans other than the CEO of the group and his fundraising cronies.
Why is CNN just now reporting on this? What about the Washington Times? Where was our news media for the past 12 years?
As far as Burch’s connections, it does not end there.
Burch has photos with practically every major Republican politician in the J. Thomas Burch Jr Collection at Texas Tech University.
And he was not only the founder of the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation.
He was also the fearless leader of the National Vietnam Veterans Coalition Foundation before it was named in a lawsuit with a telemarketing shell company called Telecom Telemarketing Services, Inc, back in 2001.
DID VA ATTORNEY KNOWINGLY USE SHADY TELECOMS?
Since then, he has enjoyed the fruits of relationships with other telemarketing shell companies that keep 90% of the funds raised for his charity. But this is obviously not new news given the comments from the Chicago Tribune back in 2004.
Both of these firms and their respective owners are repeatedly named in various states as being shady, dishonest companies that rip off donors by lying to them on the phone.
Now, take a quick look at their websites and let me know if these look like the websites of companies earning millions of dollars each year in donations for charities like NVVF:
Do either of these websites reflect a copy worth millions that you would hire to even mow your lawn much less run your fundraising?
Apparently, Outsource 3000 is owned by the same people who owned Community Support Inc (CSI) that was ordered to shut down operations in 30 states after getting caught “lying” to donors back in 2008, according to the Center For Investigative Reporting.
So, how can such a high-ranking VA attorney / Vietnam veteran / VA Deputy Director of Homeland Security and Operation, DC insider who has taken out two presidential candidates “mistakenly” hire shady companies using deceptive fundraising techniques to raise funds?
Was he merely misled each and every year by the same companies that pocketed 90% of the $29 million donated to NVVF since 2010? Did the money get moved off ledger? Did it wind up in Panama? What exactly happened to the funds and how did all of Washington DC know it was going on?
I suspect the answer will be revealed by the VA OIG investigation that is supposedly underway now that CNN outted Burch. Does it seem reasonable to believe those findings will reveal that J. Thomas Burch Jr is in on the scam?
But who really knows, right?
The guy may drive his Rolls Royce and pay $8,000 per year for parking just because he is a great guy who cares about veterans… unless you are a POW / MIA or Purple Heart recipient like John McCain or John Kerry.
Now, I do not fault the guy for driving a car that he likes and is proud of (although we can fault him for the douchey license plate “MY ROLLS”). I would love to drive a Rolls Royce, or Jaguar or something fancy some day (minus the license plate).
I do fault the guy for using knowingly shady shell companies to fundraise for his veterans organization that keep 89% of the funds raised. That is a problem for me.
It serves as a slap in the face for veterans and the organizations that support us.