The national Taxpayers Investigative Fund was created a year ago for the purpose of ferreting out waste and fraud in government. Since then, the organization has been so busy raising money from contributors around the country that it hasn't had any time to look for waste and fraud.
The NTIF was founded by William A. Clinkscales, a top official of the General Services Administration: Mark Tapscott, then a campaign aide to Ronald Reagan and now public affairs director of the Republican National Committee, and Louis C. Gasper, a GOP staff aide with the Senate Finance Committee.
So far the fund has recieved about $175,000 in contributions for its crusade against waste and fraud from 15,000 people around the country.
That response has been so encouraging that they hope soon to get on with the actual business of fighting waste and fraud. So far, though, all they have been able to do is raise the $175,000 and apparently spend most of it on the cost of raising it in the first place.
The story of the NTIF, which provides an unusal glimpse into the workings of one of the many small organizations that have sprung into being with the help of direct-mail fund-raising techniques, was first revealed by the Scripps-Howard news service in an article by reporter Gene Goldenberg.
The article said that although at least one of NTIF's fund-raising letters said that the organization had a staff of investigators "working around the clock" on the waste-and-fraud problem, NTIF consists of a rented office near Capitol Hill where a part-time employe does clerical work and answers the telephone.
In phone interviews yesterday, the three founders of NTIF confirmed this and explained that this is the way it works in the world of directmail fund-raising. They said they hope soon to raising more funds so that they can expand the organization's operation to include efforts to locate waste and fraud in the governemt.
Tapscott said he has received about $600 in "directors' fees" from NTIF to cover his expenses, and the others said they received no compensation or reimbursements. Apparently the only people who have profited so far from the existence of NTIF are printers and others involved in preparing the direct-mail fund-raising material, and Bruce Eberle and Associates, a Vienna, Va., direct-mail firm that specializes in conservative causes.
Jim Foster, an account executive with Eberle, said the firm was paid a fee of between $40 and $45 per 1,000 letters it mailed for NTIF. At those rates, Eberle's fee for preparing and mailing about 500,000 letters would be $20,000 or $22,500.
From this initial effort, known as "prospecting" in the direct-mail business, NTIF proven donors it can return to for additional funds, Foster said. In addition, Foster said that Eberle has turned over about $15,000 from the $175,000 in total contributions to NTIF to begin operating with.
Although Tapscott was described as the moving force behind the organization, Clinkscales, as an official of the often scandal-ridden GSA, was the key to the fund-raising effort. The fund-raising letters went out over his signature and described him as a former assistant inspector general for investigations with GSA.
Clinkscales said that early last year he was given a new post as deputy director of GSA's information security oversight office, a job he said involved doing "basically nothing." It was while he was in this non-investigative post that he joined NTIF after receiving clearance from GSA's general counsel, he said.
Clinkscales, however, has since been named an assistant to GSA ad ministrator Gerald Carmen with responsibility for investigating waste and fraud. Clinkscales and the other NTIF aides said that this return to an official investigative position with the government has clouded his future with the NTIF, which he now heads.