We have reported on CCHD grants since 2009, first as part of the Reform CCHD Now Coalition, and more recently as part of our mission as the Lepanto Institute. While there have been plenty of grants to horrible organizations, and not much transparency from CCHD leadership in their responses to our reports, one thing has not been at question; namely, that the organizations listed on CCHD’s own grants list are the recipients of the grants, and that no grantees were hidden from the public.
This has changed!
The CCHD’s current and only response to our recent report on its grants to the Workers Dignity Project (WDP) is that CCHD hasn’t funded WDP in three years, meaning the $50,000 CCHD indicated that it granted to WDP on its 2019-2020 grants list didn’t actually go to WDP.
Here’s what we know.
LifeSiteNews forwarded us an email chain they received from a concerned Catholic who had contacted the CCHD. This individual asked the CCHD about its grant to WDP, which had been caught promoting abortion and Planned Parenthood. Randy Keesler, a CCHD grants specialist, claimed that CCHD hadn’t granted money to WDP for three years and accused LSN of racism and bad journalism.
In response, this concerned Catholic pointed out that WDP is listed on the CCHD’s grants list for 2019-2020 for $50k. Keesler then claimed:
“[Workers Dignity] received the funding for PATHE [People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing, and Employment] which was a coalition of groups working on housing and transportation issues. Workers Dignity was a part of the coalition and had a 501c3 and could receive the funds. Then they wrote a check to PATHE. PATHE, being a coalition of groups had no corporate status and could not receive grants directly. Had Lifesite contacted us or the group they would have discovered this. Sloppy misleading reporting.” (emphasis added)
Surprisingly, the email exchange didn’t end there. Keesler was asked if granting money to WDP for the purpose of giving the money to another organization was a violation of the CCHD grant guidelines. The guideline quoted to Keesler was this:
“The following organizations are not eligible for CCHD Community Development funding:
Organizations that would use CCHD money for re-granting purposes or to fund other organizations.” (emphasis added)
Keesler’s reply was very telling:
“Technically it is not a re-grant. It is a pass through. The group has no choice of who the money goes to. They agree to be the fiscal agent so that the money will go to the approved organization. They cannot do otherwise.
Thanks for you [sic] interest.”
We are very careful in our reporting and if anything in our reports is found incorrect, we will issue an immediate and public retraction. However, to face the accusation that our report was flawed from its very premise – that CCHD even made a grant to WDP – left us dumbstruck. We double and triple checked CCHD’s OWN grants list, and sure enough, as plain as day, WDP is listed as having received a grant of $50,000. We double checked CCHD’s own Poverty USA map of CCHD funded groups, and again, WDP is listed as a grantee.
So, what is going on here?
Given the nature of CCHD’s claims we had to verify the connection between WDP and PATHE, and we discovered some rather intriguing oddities. For instance, the only public address for PATHE is the same as WDP’s. According to page 38 of WDP’s 2019 form 990, PATHE is listed as residing at 335 Whitsett Rd, which is the same as WDP’s address listed on page 1.
We searched through public phone records and found that the number PATHE listed on its website is a landline located in Old Hickory, Kentucky. But when we tried calling the number all we got was a recording that said, “The number you dialed is not a working number.” Unable to ask questions over the phone, I emailed PATHE the following questions:
“To whom it may concern,
I am writing to inquire as to your tax status. Is PATHE a 501c3 tax-exempt organization? If so, have you obtained your tax recognition from the IRS, or are you in the process of obtaining recognition? Also, is this your physical address:
335 WHITSETT RD NASHVILLE,TN 37210
One last question. Is this your correct phone number? 615-240-7957”
Within a few hours, I received a response from a woman named Melissa Cherry, whose linkedin page shows that she’s the “Admin at Democracy Nashville – Democratic Communities”:
“We are a fiscally sponsored organization. The address listed is no longer accurate, but the phone number will still reach us. Please let me know if you need updated information for a particular purpose.”
So, this is how I responded:
“Thank you for your reply. As a fiscally sponsored organization, is it accurate to say that you are not a 501c3, and that you are not seeking 501c3 recognition from the IRS? Since the address listed is no longer accurate, would you please provide me with a corporate address? Incidentally, I tried calling the number earlier, and got a recording indicating that the call could not be completed. Do you have any idea why this might be the case?”
Eight days later, I tried calling PATHE’s phone number again and got the same recording indicating that the phone number is not a working number.
This is disturbing on several levels.
Most importantly, this means we CANNOT trust CCHD’s grants lists. The CCHD grants list for 2019-2020 indicates that CCHD gave a grant of $50,000 to Workers Dignity Project. PATHE is not mentioned anywhere on the list and there is no asterisk indicating that this was a “pass-through grant” or anything of the sort. CCHD just indicates that WDP got the money.
Given this complete lack of transparency, how can ANYTHING listed on the CCHD grants list be trusted? If the CCHD lists one organization on its grants list, but it is, in fact, using that money to give to another organization NOT identified by the CCHD, then how can we possibly know that the CCHD isn’t fraudulently funding organizations for the purpose of giving that money to Planned Parenthood, the Chinese Communist Party, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, or the Democratic National Committee? How can the CCHD’s own published grants list be trusted at all?
But what this also shows is CCHD’s utter disregard for its own grant guidelines. In this case, the CCHD violated TWO guidelines to provide a hidden grant to PATHE … an organization that may or may not even actually exist.
THE VERY FIRST CCHD GUIDELINE STATES:
“CCHD will award community development grants only to organizations that have been recognized as exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.”
CCHD grants specialist, Randy Keesler, fully admitted that PATHE does NOT meet this criterion when he said, “Workers Dignity was a part of the coalition and had a 501c3 and could receive the funds … PATHE, being a coalition of groups had no corporate status and could not receive grants directly.”
Since CCHD doesn’t fund organizations that are not IRS-recognized 501c3 groups, CCHD gave the grant to WDP, which leads to the second guideline violation; CCHD specifically said that “Organizations that would use CCHD money for re-granting purposes or to fund other organizations,” are not eligible for CCHD grants. Keesler claims that “Technically it is not a re-grant. It is a pass through,” failing to acknowledge that CCHD had forbidden “pass through” grants as well.
In short, CCHD is breaking its own guidelines to fund an organization that it doesn’t list on its grants list.
And what of CCHD’s claimed “rigorous vetting process?”
Remember, PATHE doesn’t have a working phone and no apparent office of its own. Who did CCHD call to discuss PATHE’s mission, plans, use of funds, and to ensure that PATHE wouldn’t violate Catholic moral or social teaching? What phone number did they use? What office did they meet at, and what financial documents did they review? Who signed for the grant, promising not to attack Catholic moral teaching? Considering that CCHD broke two of its own rules just to get funding to PATHE to begin with, and also considering that it seems very unlikely that PATHE (as an organization) was interviewed or vetted, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if CCHD is funding an organization that doesn’t really exist at all. We really do have to wonder – Is CCHD funding some kind of shell corporation?
Finally, we proved that WDP itself is a horrible organization. It is a community partner of Planned Parenthood. It pushes abortion on its own radio station. Why would we trust it to take the lead on founding a coalition, and trust that coalition with Catholicfunding? Also, “fiscal partners” often receive a percentage of the pass-through funding. Are we certain that WDP is receiving NOTHING in this exchange? Is CCHD at all curious that PATHE and WDP share the same address on WDP’s form 990? And the relationship between PATHE and WDP goes beyond fiscal sponsorship and sharing the same address. According to a PATHE Facebook post from May 2019 calling on people to go to WDP’s 9th anniversary party, WDP has been “a core part of PATHE from the beginning.”
Given that CCHD would so flagrantly break its own guidelines to get funding to a grantee not on public record, we simply cannot trust CCHD to handle Catholic funds with any sort of responsibility – and now we cannot even trust the grants lists they provide.
It’s well past time to shut off the lights and close the door on this failed project.
It is time to END the Catholic Campaign for Human Development!
Please contact the CCHD (especially Randy Keesler) and demand answers! Ask them how or why organizations like these ever received a grant and if CCHD will demand Catholic money to be returned for violating CCHD guidelines and Catholic moral/social teaching. Also, contact your bishop and ask them to withdraw completely from the CCHD.
CCHD NATIONAL OFFICE STAFF
Ralph McCloud, CCHD Director 202-541-3367 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lydia Jiles, Grants Administrator 202-541-3210 email@example.com
Juan Aranda, Grants Specialist for Area D 202-541-3370 firstname.lastname@example.org
Main Number . . . . . . . . . . 202-541-3210
Fax Number . . . . . . . . . . 202-541-3329
Main Email . . . . . . . . . . email@example.com
Area A Ian Mitchell 202-541-3371 firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont
Area B Gene Giannotta 202-541-3211 email@example.com
Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin
Area C Randy Keesler 202-541-3369 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alabama, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee , Virgin Islands, Virginia, West Virginia
Area D Juan Aranda 202-541-3370 email@example.com
Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas
Area E Sean Wendlinder 202-541-3212 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alaska, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming