Civil War Preservation Trust - secrecy and publicity

As we approach the Feb. 28 date for the release of Civil War Preservation Trust's highly idiosyncratic endangered battlefields list and press conference, it dismays me to say that the essayist and TV personality Ben Stein will be used to spark interest in this year's event. He should know better.

Ben does a money show. I have a little money trick I could teach him. I go to the website of any charity appealing to me for money and I hunt down financials. If there are no financials, I don't consider donating.

Civil War Preservation Trust has never posted its financials but at least up to a couple of years ago, it had a link on its home page to Charity Navigator. By digging around Charity Navigator, you could eventually find links to their tax filings.

I can't find the tax filings in Charity Navigator any more. And CWPT has removed the link to Charity Navigator from its home page. (I notice that Charity Navigator downgraded CWPT to three stars. Coincidence?)

One thing, the Navigator is still good for is charting the disparity between income and outflow. Look at the revenue/expenses trend chart on this page. CWPT is saving more than $3 million a year from its intake; it was sitting on $16 million in assets in 2002 and the savings keep accumulating. My feeling is that the nonprofit is currently clutching $20 mln - $25 mln in unspent donations.

When the government runs a surplus, we define that as overtaxing. How do we define this? As misfeasance? Underperformance? Organizational dysfunction?

For every dollar you donate to CWPT, some 30 cents seems to go into a bank vault. Forever.

On February 28, CWPT will moan and groan about properties it could buy in a heartbeat. After your press conference, go out and buy some land, skinflints.

Tell, 'em how Ben, 'cause they don't have much experience there.