Don Imus Ranch Probe Closed
New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer has closed his office's investigation (WSJ, free link) of possible charity accounting malfeasance at radio host Don Imus's New Mexico ranch, which operates as a charity for sick children.
The Imus Ranch, a 4,000-acre ranch in northern New Mexico, is run by Mr. Imus and his wife, Deirdre, to help sick children by teaching them how to be cowboys and cowgirls. The ranch's expenses totaled $2.6 million last year, although the ranch hosts only about 100 children annually, mostly during the summer. Mr. Imus raises the funds through his radio and television broadcasts.
Mr. Imus's personal use of the ranch has drawn scrutiny from tax and charity officials. He and his wife and son stay at the ranch all summer to oversee the children's programs. He and his family also visit the ranch in the off-season, including during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, as well as occasional weekends, Mr. Imus said in the Journal article and reconfirmed on his show yesterday.
Charity law states that the charity board is supposed to account for or be compensated for his use of the ranch, but it hasn't done so. The board also typically would be required to value Mr. Imus's services to the ranch to offset any charges from his use, but also hasn't done so. The Imus Ranch board consists of Mr. Imus, his wife and his two accountants.
In the Journal article, Mr. Imus said he and his wife work at the ranch as unpaid volunteers and manage the ranch themselves. He said yesterday on his radio show that for the ranch to charge him and his family for his time there is "absurd." He acknowledged in the article that the costs of the ranch are high, but that he would pay "$2.6 million or $1.8 million per child if I thought it could change their lives."
Imus, like most people who have had the awesome power of the Government swoop down on them and a lifetime of work impugned by unproven allegations, is justifiably angry. Having now experienced this power personally, I hope he will use his huge media clout to expose government excess in investigatory power when it comes to his attention.
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