At a time when fraudulent solicitors are collecting some $25 million a year for advertisements in phony minority oriented publications, a major civil rights group says it is unable to support itself by using conventional fund-raising techniques.
Instead, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference West has turned to its own telephone solicitation program. Even though this program is for an established organization and the advertising sold is for a real magazine, it, too, has generated a number of complaints.
The operation is headed by Steve W. Blood, a bearded 33-year-old white telephone solicitor who wears expensive Pierre Cardin suits and decorates his well-appointed office with pictures of national and local politicians.
For the past seven years Blood has provided the principal source of funds for SCLC West, which was founded and is still headed by H. Hartford Brookins, an African Methodist Episcopal Church bishop. Brookins said the organization needs he telephone solicitation program, which he said has provided about $75,000 a year.
Brookins acknowledged that over the years he has received a number of complaints about telephone solicitation methods used by Blood's group, which publishes a magazine six times a year and turns it over to SCLC chapters for distribution.
But Brookins and Marnesba Tackett, executive director of SCLC West, maintain that these complaints are more than offset by the advantage of a regular income for the chapter.
"When Martin Luther King was alive, we could hold a $50-a-plate dinner and sell out easily," said Brookins. "Now, we're scratching to sell $15-a-plate tickets for a dinner honoring Dr. King's birthday. Had it not been for the magazine. SCLC on the West Coast would have folded long ago."
Over the years, Blood has had a number of run-ins with the law.
In 1967, the California attorney general obtained, in Los Angeles Superior Court, a civil injunction prohibiting Blood from misrepresenting an aero space oriented magazine, which he then published, or from sending invoices for advertising that had never been ordered.
Two years later, in Orange County, the attorney general obtained a more sweeping judgment that permanently prohibited Blood from "engaging in, whether directly or indirectly, or by any means whatsoever, any business, plan or scheme in the State of California involving the solicitation or sale of advertising in any publication."
However, Blood maintained that his lawyer had agreed to a judgment that would deprive him of his livelihood. He changed lawyers and a federal court modified the judgment so that Blood was allowed to remain in the telephone solicitation business but was prohibited from misrepresenting his product.
In an hour-long interview with two reporters, Blood said that his efforts in behalf of the SCLC Western chapter for the past seven years and more recently for Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) represented his commitment to civil rights causes.
"I guess a lot of people would wish that SCLC would't solicit by phone and would just ask for contributions," said Blood. "But that way doesn't work."
Brockins said that five years ago, when there were many complaints against Blood, the organization dropped him for a while and hired a black man who lacked expertise. After this experience, which produced only $6,000 for SCLC West, the chapter went back to Blood.
Last year, however, continuing complaints prompted the national organization to step in and reach an agreement with Brookins making Blood responsible to the national office.
The Rev. Jessie Jackson, head of Operation PUSH, said this week that his organization served its relationship with Blood in December after receiving complaints from California authorities about Blood's activities.
Jackson said Blood had a one-year contract to publish a magazine for PUSH. "We decided after a year that we did not want to renew our contract. . .," Jackson said. "We broke it because we did not want to risk our reputation."
The Blood operation's annual gross income has been estimated at $2 million by postal officials.
Blood said the $2 million estimate of his operation's income was "grossly exaggerated," but he declined to say how much he takes in.
He did provide some financial information. He said his salespeople received a commission of 25 per cent and that the magazine collects 75 per cent of its advertising billings. Blood also provided advertising rate cards for both the SCLC magazine, which now has removed the word "West" from its title page, and the Operation PUSH magazine.
Based on the rate cards, the 195-page October-November issue of "SCLC" would have produced $445,-000 in revenue and the 120-page issue of "Operation PUSH" $155,000 if all billings were collected.
Blood said that "at least 10,000 copies" of each magazine were printed. He said the SCLC magazine was given to chapters to distribute because it was too expensive to mail the magazine third-class and he was unable to get a second-class postal permit.
According to Blood, the SCLC national organization received "more than $100,000 from his fund-raising efforts in 1977. He said he expects the figure to be $200,000 in 1978.
Blood said his income from the solicitation operations was $52,000 a year. He employs 30 people including 22 telephone solicitors, for SCLC, and six others in a separate building for Operation PUSH.