HSUS CEO Wayne “I don’t love animals” Pacelle must be very worried about the investigation launched against his organization by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who last month issued subpoenas to HSUS in light of a major HSUS contractor, Quadriga Art, entering a $25 million settlement with the New York Attorney General. But he’s got a strange attitude for responding to the controversy, choosing to attack the motives of General Pruitt while playing the victim card on his blog.
This latest hubbub started when a website called TheAgitator.net—which is run by two guys and which no one has heard of—posted a three-part screed this week attacking Pruitt, attacking us, and then defending HSUS. Pacelle was quick to tout the ranting of this website on his blog. Essentially, Pacelle’s defense is, “We’re a target simply because we’re effective.” To which the logical response is: “So what?”
It isn’t relevant how “effective” HSUS is in regards to whether or not it is raising money by deceptive and misleading means. To argue otherwise would be like a bank robber saying “But I gave half to charity!”
For starters, HSUS isn’t effective by objective measures—and Pacelle’s self-selected spin doesn’t count as “objective.” The independent charity watchdog CharityWatch finds that HSUS spends up to 45% of its budget on overhead, earning a “C-minus” grade (only slightly better than the “D” grades it earned for years). Animal People–far from flacks for “Big Ag”–puts the number at 55%. Oh, and all those animals HSUS claims to provide “direct care” for? Half of those animals are street dogs, etc. in other countries. Given its name, is it too much to expect the Humane Society of the UNITED STATES do more for animals in the United States?
The real issue is whether HSUS is raising money under deceptive means. The evidence for this is extensive. Here’s the nuts and bolts:
- HSUS donors think their money is being used in a radically different way than it is being used—and they think HSUS misleads people;
- HSUS telemarketing scripts show that fundraisers are misleading donors about how much money will go to charity;
- The vast majority of animals in HSUS ads are dogs and cats, even though Pacelle has said on the record that only 20% of HSUS’s money goes towards these animals;
- Wayne Pacelle admitted last year that “I think there is some confusion among the general public and I think there’s occasional confusion with, with donors.”
- HSUS’s direct mail does not contain disclaimers that the organization is independent from local humane societies. HSUS’s TV ads now contain disclaimers (in tiny print and up for just a few seconds), but almost no TV ads did in 2009-2011—which seems like an admission of guilt to us.
And let’s review some highlights from 2014 for HSUS:
- HSUS and its affiliate HSWLT filed amended tax returns after HSUS was caught violating IRS instructions and inflating its revenue;
- Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest charity evaluator, revoked its rating of HSUS and replaced it with a “Donor Advisory” warning;
- HSUS paid up to $15.75 million to settle a federal racketeering, fraud, and bribery lawsuit—and then was exposed for misleading donors in the aftermath, insinuating that insurance would cover the settlement when HSUS’s insurance company has denied coverage.
The facts are simple, but HSUS can’t argue these facts. The evidence is unimpeachable. So instead it has concocted a phony “victim” story whereby a big, bad politician is going after this poor, little group. It smacks of desperation. And the public will see right through it if Pruitt makes a fact-based case.
At the end of the day, Pacelle is hoping that he can make enough noise and get what he wants—for Oklahoma to drop its investigation and give HSUS a free pass. He reminds us of the six-year-old whining to his parents for candy. But if your best defense is two guys’ blog-rant, that speaks volumes.