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Non-profit backlash over debunked claims

The allegation by a US Congressman that “several million dollars has been routed through non-profit organisations in Bermuda” in a Russian disinformation scheme to promote the anti-fracking lobby in the US (Tuesday March 22, 2022) has led to a backlash by Bermuda’s non-profit community.

In a seven-paragraph statement (See related media) on the letterhead of the Inter Agency Committee for Children and Families, the organisations make it clear that “Bermuda’s non-profits have policies and procedures to demonstrate ethically and fiscally responsible fundraising”.

The press statement was said to be jointly submitted by the Nonprofit Alliance of Bermuda, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Nonprofit Division of the Chamber of Commerce and the IAC.

The statement reads: “The non-profit community was disappointed by today’s article and headline in The Royal Gazette implying local non-profits' affiliation to unethical practices associated with President Putin.

“The article had no factual substance but presented a damaging headline that inaccurately portrayed the sector as complicit in money laundering and could lead to the impression of poor fundraising and financial standards of practice by Bermuda’s non-profits.”

To be clear, the article and headline reported that allegations were made in a public forum by a US congressman. It gave no weight to the veracity of the claims.

The largely debunked allegations themselves, and even the staunch rebuttals, are not new. They have been around for several years, and information has never been sourced to substantiate any specific claim.

Of the two major political camps in the United States, both have alleged the other is involved in dark money from Russia being funnelled to the opposing side.

Allegations involving Bermuda entities surfaced as US political talking points during a quest for congressional investigation. But the allegations have long been refuted.

The Royal Gazette has approached Congressman Green’s staff to see if these were the same allegations or something new. His office was contacted to ask if he could share the alleged “evidence”.

We wait to hear back.

Those answering the phone at his Clarksville, Tennessee office and in Washington DC promised to have the congressman or others respond to our request.

Meanwhile, the statement from the local non-profit community continued to emphasise ethical fundraising practices.

It said: “Like the private sector, every registered charity in Bermuda is subject to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1997 and the Antiterrorism (Financial and Other Measures) Act 2004. Charities must have a trained compliance officer. The compliance officer is responsible for receiving disclosures about money-laundering or terrorist-financing activity and for ensuring that appropriate anti-money-laundering and antiterrorist-financing systems and processes are in place.

“As a result, Bermuda’s non-profits have policies and procedures to demonstrate ethically and fiscally responsible fundraising.

“In addition, many non-profits have gone above the requirements and have gone through the rigorous process of becoming certified by the Bermuda National Standards Committee, which is internationally recognised.

“Many professional fundraisers in Bermuda are also members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Bermuda Chapter, and annually sign a Code of Ethical Standards which states that members shall not engage in activities that conflict with their fiduciary, ethical and legal obligations to their organisations, clients or profession; and that they shall comply with all applicable local, state, provincial and federal civil and criminal laws.”

See related media for the full statement.

Bermuda’s non-profit community emphasized ethical fundraising practices

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Published March 23, 2022 at 7:36 am (Updated March 24, 2022 at 8:02 am)

Non-profit backlash over debunked claims

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