The Congress of Racial Equality has collected millions of dollars in charitable contributions, virtually none of which ever reached the intended beneficiaries, the minority poor, according to an investigation by the New York state attorney general's office.
The money went instead for such things as trips to London, Paris, Las Vegas, the Caribbean and elsewhere for CORE officials, furniture for officials' offices and apartments, and a hidden bank account that could be drawn on with no stated purpose, the probers reported.
In addition, they said the organization spent $1,600 for tickets to the 1976 Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton heavyweight boxing match and labeled it "executive conference."
Nearly all the funds were raised through a telephone solicitation campaign that frequently involved the use of "intimidation, extortion and harassment," the investigators reported.
The one-year investigation began in 1977 and focused on CORE's fund-raising activities in fiscal 1976. The investigative report is included in a civilsuit filed recently against CORE by the Charity Frauds Bureau of the state attorney general's office.
The suit, filed Dec. 27 in New York Supreme Court, asks that CORE be dissolved and prohibited from soliciting funds "within or from the state of New York." It is the latest in a long series of legal actions, law enforcement and news media investigations aimed at CORE -- all stemming from allegations by corporate officials and private citizens that they have been the victims of intimidating CORE fund-raising tactics.
CORE National Director Roy Innis vehemently denied all of the attorney general's charges yesterday at a New York press conference. He called the suit "a vicious act of pure racism -- a product of sloppy investigation and pure imagination."
Innis declared that CORE would become a "guerilla organization, operating whenever and wherever we can," if the attorney general succeeds in significantly curtailing or in ending CORE's operation.
The CORE leader said the charges are the result of collusion between the New York attorney genceral's office and James Farmer, a co-founder and jormer direcotr of CORE, who lately has been accusing Innis of destroying the organization through corrupt practices.
Farmer has vowed to hold a convention to demand Innis' ouster.
Innis also presented three CORE audits from an "independent auditor" to counter the state charges.
The suit gives a highly detailed enumeration of charges aimed directly at CORE's headquarters in New York City. Already, the state court has ordered that an undetermined amount of Central CORE's assets be frozen in banks across the state, and that the organization suspend all New York fund-raising activities until the suit is settled.
Among the charges in the suit are allegaions that:
CORE acted to "defraud the public by engaging in practices that are deceptive, intimidating, illegal, unconscionable and against the public policy of the state of New York";
CORE solicitors threatened persons or corporations who refused to buy ads or subscriptions in its magazine by telling them that "the troops will be called out" to demonstrate in front of the business establishments or that the individuals would be labeled "recist" in the balck community;
CORE, founded in 1942 and once a pround and prominent civil rights organization, has "exploited poor, mostly minority youth... to extort money from the public for the benefit of an organization whose sole raison d'etre has degenerated to the acquisition of more and more money";
CORE raised $4,081,559 in fiscal 1976, nearly all through telephone solicitations in which it consistently misrepresented itself as a government agency;
CORE spent $1,585,251 in 1972 for fund-raising. It spent less, $1,562,753, for "program services" that were "nothing but a Potemkin Village meant to defraud the public and act as a screen for consistent looting for private purposes";
In its books and records for fiscal 1976, CORE "failed to disclose any payment to any professionals or suppliers that would be necessary to carry out" the program services CORE claims to have provided;
At least $301,383,21 of the 1976 funds were deliberately "diverted and misappropriated" for the personal use of CORE officers, and another $152,840.86 "was expended by CORE for highly questionable purposes;"
The alleged diversions and misappropriations included the expenditure of "an incredible one-quarter of a million dollars" for travel to places like Paris, Aondon, Las Vegas, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nairobi, Kenya, Lusaka, Zambia, St. Croix and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Melbourne, Australia, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;
CORE kept a hidden savings account from which the leaders withdrew a total of $74,797.27 in fiscal 1976 without giving any reasons. The account carried the handwritten title, "Slush Fund," according to photocopies accompanying the investigators' report;
CORE also kept a "special Projects Fund." In 1976, according to the report, $16,589.80 was spent on furniture to outfit national director Innis' apartment "and other personal purchases."
The suit says CORE leaders spent $1,600 in organization funds to attend the Ali-Norton fight at Yankee Stadium.They called their ringside meeting an "executive conference," according to a photocopied record of CORE Check Requisition From No. 6432, dated Sept. 28, 1976.
The form reads: "Pay to the order of Madison Square Garden Box, Inc., the sum of sixteen hundred dollars for eight (8) tickets for Ali-Norton fight (executive conference)."
Another check requisition form, No. 5292, dated June 15, 1976, reads: "Pay to the order of Nassau Coliseum, the sum of two thousand dollars, for tickets for (George) Foreman/(Joe) Frazier fight, as requested by R. I." (Roy Innis).
A CORE spokesman, George Holmes, called the suit "a bunch of bull.... lies that they've been putting out against us all over the country."
"We're going to bring out the people," Holmes continued. "We're going to show the numbers of politicians and the kind of political pull we have. We're going to kick this attorney general's... so bad that no one will ever again dare to bring up CORE's name in court," Holmes declared.