Millionaire huckster: For most of last week, the FEMA website featured links to just three disaster-relief organizations to which concerned citizens could send cash donations to help victims of Hurricane Katrina: the Red Cross, America’s Second Harvest (a national coalition of food banks) and Operation Blessing.
Operation Blessing is charity run by televangelist and Republican operative Pat Robertson, the multi-millionaire a co-founder of the Christian Coalition, a GOP front organization.
Perhaps the obviously clueless folks at FEMA are unaware of Robertson’s shady dealings with African dictators, and the way he has used Operation Blessing to build the fortune he has made from diamond mining:
Operation Blessing, with a budget of $190 million, is an integral part of the Robertson empire. Not only is he the chairman of the board, his wife is listed on its latest financial report as its vice president, and one of his sons is on the board of directors.
Back in 1994, during the infamous Rwandan genocide, Robertson used his 700 Club’s daily cable operation to appeal to the American public for donations to fly humanitarian supplies into Zaire to save the Rwandan refugees.
The planes purchased by Operation Blessing did a lot more than ferry relief supplies.
An investigation conducted by the Virginia attorney general’s office concluded in 1999 that the planes were mostly used to transport mining equipment for a diamond operation run by a for-profit company called African Development Corp.
And who do you think was the principal executive and sole shareholder of the mining company?
You guessed it, Pat Robertson himself.
Robertson had landed the mining concession from his longtime friend Mobutu Sese Seko, then the dictator of Zaire.
Investigators concluded that Operation Blessing “willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements …”
Robertson also has millions invested in diamond mines in Liberia, and was a vocal supporter of Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who is currently under indictment by the UN for crimes against humanity.
Across the country, state and local government emergency agencies picked up the list and posted the Operation Blessing link on their sites, as well.
But what might surprise normal Americans who donated to Operation Blessing because it was listed on a government website is that the largest recipient of the charity’s largesse is the Christian Broadcasting Network, which pays Robertson’s salary.
More info: Check out this chilling overview of Robertson’s vast financial empire from Greg Palast (August 2005).
Hat tip to JSD