Blumenthal Hits Target (Girl Scouts) on This One
Connecticut Attorney General
Popular Girl Scout Cookies
Although I confess to being a Democrat, I'm not generally a big fan of (Connecticut) state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who this week took aim at the Girl Scouts of America -- or, at least, at the people who manage the national organization.
Blumenthal told a press conference this week (July, 1994) that the scouts' managers are being "less than honest" about the way they report receipts from cookie sales. He added that he is prepared to take legal action if the national organization fails to change its accounting practices.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
For a politician with the usual political ambitions, taking on the Girl Scouts is a bold step, not (something) that I often attribute to Blumenthal. But, following the "give-credit-where-credit-is-due" theory, I compliment him for having the audacity to even look into the scouts' financial doings.
He deserves credit as well for forthrightly cudgeling the scouts on the issue, knowing all-along that their partisans would not forgo a strong counterattack.
In substance the attorney general's attack maintains that scout managers are using "sleight of hand" and "stretching the truth" by directing councils nationwide in a way that artificially makes it appear that more money is being spent on programs to benefit the girls than actually is.
Blumenthal blames the national leadership for setting "a bad example" and sending "the wrong message."
Donors, he notes, rely on the Girl Scout reports, and will be misled by descriptions of the sale of cookies as "anything other than a fund-raising event."
A 'Learning Experience'
Not unlike the French police chief played by Claude Rains in Casablanca, a Girl Scouts national spokesman was "shocked" by Blumenthal's comments. The spokesman said the organization is acting on advice from its accountants, adding that the Girl Scouts view the sale of cookies as a "learning experience" as well as a fund-raiser.
It's unclear to me why Blumenthal decided to look into the Girl Scout situation, but I recall that not long ago a Girl Scout leader somewhere in Connecticut caused a stir when she lambasted the Scouts for spending too much money on administration -- a charge that, as I recall, got her in trouble with the Scout organization.
I suppose it's only human, but leaders of organizations almost always resent people (whistleblowers) who point out serious problems that cry out for correction.
The Girl Scouts are not alone among nonprofit and eleemosynary organizations who have come under criticism in recent times.
Held to a Higher Standard
It seems to me that civic organizations and charities, which thrive on the goodheartedness of the people from whom they hope to gain financial (and volunteer) support, should be held to a higher standard than business organizations that merely provide a service.
There have been too many incidents in recent years of con men running phony charities and professional fund-raising groups taking an unconscionable percentage of dollars collected. Reputable civic organizations and charities would do well to be sure their finances and operational practices are beyond reproach.
For my money, which on a good day would fill a thimble, the Salvation Army beats them all when it comes to honesty, integrity and good works!
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on July 30, 1994.