Michael's Dispatches

Naked Angels: Busted

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14 August 2012

The multi-million dollar charity Soldiers' Angels has funneled donations to a company owned in part by a son of the founder.

The son's name is Brandon Varn.

Mr. Varn and his partner, Brian Harman, founded a t-shirt company in Nevada.  According to public records, their company, "Boodam and the Beav, Inc.," was established in 2008 in Las Vegas.

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That same year, Soldiers' Angels paid Boodam and the Beav at least $75,820. Brandon Varn is the son of Soldiers' Angels founder, Mrs. Patti Patton-Bader.  Mrs. Patton-Bader is perhaps best known for trading on the name of her distant relative, General George S. Patton.

When I asked Mrs. Patton-Bader about the money that she sent to Nevada, she initially evaded the question, writing on Facebook that I was lying about her son living in Nevada.  I did not say that her son lived in Nevada.  But why Mr. Varn started a t-shirt company in a state where he did not live, which immediately received a $75,820 infusion from his mom's huge charity, is worth asking about.  The question was not whether her son lived in Nevada, but whether she funneled charity dollars meant for troops to her son's business.  Which she did.

Mrs. Patton-Bader at first denied that the transaction ever occurred.  I showed her the IRS filing that stated otherwise.  She then admitted that the transaction had happened, but qualified her admission with weak comments that did nothing to dispel the appearance of a cover-up, saying "he worked for the company mike..."

Nevada public records show that her son, Brandon Varn, was part-owner of Boodam and the Beav, Inc.  The Patton-Bader family has a vested interest to give away or sell t-shirts whose profits benefit the son of the founder.  Was this agreement put out to bid?  Does Soldiers' Angels use family members as suppliers for other merchandise that it sells or gives away?

Executives of Soldiers' Angels are notorious for attacking anyone who questions their business or their motives, and I was warned not to tangle with its increasingly venomous founder.  Mrs. Patton-Bader, confronted with facts, instantly resorted to defamation, writing:

"You are lying you fake, Brandon did not get the money for himself, it was for tshirts, Brandon was not the only one in company and it was fully disclosed YOU LIED AS YOU ALWAYS DO, by twisting and turning and the worst of it is, you think you are doing good, in a way you are donations are UP because of you so Thank you again. You lose Michael because we do what we say we do, if it is even close to something the public should know we disclose it. You are nothing but a coward..."

Mrs. Patton-Bader apparently thinks that she is General George S. Patton himself, slapping soldiers with his historical glove.  She may not realize that if General Patton did that today, he would be marched out of the service.  Nobody is intimidated.  

Board member Matt Burden, after my previous Soldiers' Ducks dispatch, wrote on Facebook that Mike Yon is a "[piece of shit] liar."  Soldiers' Angels is a floundering organization with a demonstrably dishonest and increasingly classless leadership.  (Burden's website accused me of being disembedded from Canadian forces for security violations, which is impossible; I was never embedded with Canadian forces.)  

Soldiers' Angels cannot argue its case using facts when the facts are against them, so they resort to intimidation, to defamation and to poison.  It is not working.  Other organizations have also criticized Soldiers' Angels. Charity Navigator gave them a 1-star financial rating. 

Soldiers' Angels received full points for transparency from Charity Navigator, but are they really that transparent?  After all, Soldiers' Angels spent a significant sum with a business that was partly-owned by a family member.  If they were dealing illegal drugs, this would be called money laundering.  But instead of cleaning the dirty money, Mrs. Patton-Bader made charitable donations into a family profit center.  Clever.

Maybe this sort of stinky dealing is perfectly legal -- I do not know the technicalities -- but it is greasy and sticky and creates an opportunity and incentive for corruption.  There is inherent conflict of interest in hiring one’s own son as a supplier when no doubt there are hundreds or even thousands of alternative suppliers.  The nonprofit has an obligation to avoid any appearance of malfeasance or conflict of interests.

When they are making money for t-shirts, there is motivation to give away thousands of t-shirts, paid for by donations.  Giving away t-shirts does nothing to help veterans, yet they paid $75,820 in one fell swoop, just in 2008.  How much was paid over the years?

Some will no doubt point out that Soldiers' Angels divulged this transaction on an IRS Form 990. But it was required to do so, and the factoid was hidden amongst a sea of other details, on a page amongst many pages in a voluminous filing. In other words, hiding in plain sight.

Rather than disparaging its critics, Soldiers' Angels should come clean about previous allegations of travel abuse, and it should address other questions that were raised in Soldiers' Ducks.

While she is at it, Mrs. Patton-Bader should pocket her slapping-glove and also answer these questions:

  1. How many family members -- by blood or by marriage -- have worked at Soldiers' Angels?  What were their positions and salaries?
  2. Exactly which transactions have occurred with companies that are owned, in whole or in part, by family members that are related to other members of Soldiers' Angels?
  3. Exactly which transactions have occurred with companies that are owned, in whole or in part, by Soldiers' Angels employees or leadership, whether paid or unpaid?
  4. How many t-shirts and other pieces of apparel or merchandise were purchased from companies owned, in part or in whole, by extended family members of Soldier’s Angels and Soldiers' Angels employees or leadership?
  5. Exactly what did Soldiers' Angels receive for the $75,820 paid to her son's company?
  6. What were the itemized prices for these purchases?
  7. Who are the current suppliers?
  8. Has Soldiers' Angels paid family members or leadership for services rendered to Soldiers' Angels?  (Outside of normal pay for employment.)  If so, who, what, when, where, and how much?
  9. Are any family members, or companies in which they hold interests, leasing or renting property or equipment to Soldiers' Angels?  Has this ever occurred in the past?
  10. Which websites does SA advertise on, and how much is paid for the advertisements?

The following is an example of a curious relationship.  Mark Taglianetti published on LinkedIn that he was a Production Manager for both Soldiers' Angels and for Boodam and the Beav.  In light of the rest, this has the appearance of conflict of interest:

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Soldiers' Angels publicly praised its relationship with Boodam and the Beav during a fundraiser, failing to mention that Mr. Varn is the son of Mrs. Patton-Bader.  This has the appearance of a conflict of interests:

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A reasonable person might ask why t-shirts have anything to do with helping veterans.  But retailers know that online sales of t-shirts can be lucrative.

Especially if the t-shirt company has the backing of a major charity, and benefits from a free public relations campaign paid for by that charity, and enjoys a maternal relationship with the charity.

Mrs. Patton-Bader may claim that there was no public relations campaign to raise sales at her son's t-shirt company, but the above listing tells a different story.  These t-shirts were not about helping veterans: they were about making money, and that money washed into her son's company.

Many have become fed-up with the venom, the glove-smacking, and the flag-wrapped jingoism that Mrs. Patton-Bader unleashes whenever anyone questions Soldiers' Angels.  From Facebook:

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It has been demonstrated that charitable donations to Soldiers' Angels have been funneled to the family of Mrs. Patti Patton-Bader.  For her part, Mrs. Patton-Bader continues to try to shoot the messenger.  She is on shaky ground with her libel and defamation.  Apparently she thinks that it is safe to claim that there are lawsuits against me and that I am hiding overseas.  There are no lawsuits against me, and I am not hiding.  Mrs. Patton-Bader has committed libel and defamation with this statement, and with others.

To write that I am a member of Westboro Baptist and am being sued is egregious defamation committed by an organization with deep pockets.

Mrs. Patton-Bader should stick with facts.

Soldiers' Angel lost its halo and stands before us naked, busted, hate-fueled and committing defamation with a false sense of security.  Some noticed it years ago:

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