As tens of millions of dollars stream into the ALS Association thanks to the viral popularity of a recent fundraiser, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley warns that charity and all others that the government is “still watching” to make sure the money goes to research, as promised.
Grassley, a Republican, says he launched an investigation into several nonprofit groups in 2003. “We heard reports initially involving philanthropic organizations set up for the 9-11 disaster in New York,” Grassley says. “The money wasn’t being used. People were raising questions about what it went to.”
The probes were broadened to include several groups that took in donations that were considered tax deductible, as it was potential federal tax dollars that were being diverted to various causes and not into government coffers. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health financed 237 areas of disease research, spending more than 30-billion dollars on medical research.
Grassley says the taxpayers deserve to know every tax dollar assigned to medical research is spent prudently, not funded and forgotten. “We changed laws for the Red Cross, as an example, because they’re chartered by the United States,” Grassley says. “We’ve had the conservation organizations that were self-dealing within their board of directors on land that was donated.” The ALS Association has taken in nearly $80 million in recent weeks through the Ice Bucket Challenge, where people dump a bucket of ice water on their heads, make a donation and challenge others, by name, to do the same thing.
Millions of videos have appeared on Facebook since July to raise money for research into ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Grassley says the ALS Association is not being singled out for an investigation and nothing is pending involving that organization. “I think the nonprofits are on top of things pretty well,” Grassley says, “but I just want every organization to know that we’re still watching.”
The senator was asked if he’s been challenged to dump a bucket of ice water on his own head. “I had an inquiry from somebody, the answer is yes, but I thought that the best thing to do would be to use my position as a United States Senator, not to be mellow dramatic, but to promote research, not just for ALS but for all diseases.”
Grassley calls the Ice Bucket Challenge a “social media sensation.” He says it’s good to see more people becoming engaged and educated about diseases that cause pain and suffering for so many. In a statement, he says: “For the families, caregivers, patients and victims of this and other incurable diseases, the increased attention and awareness are welcome signs. It means more people are empathizing with the heartbreak and hardship that comes with a medical diagnosis that so far has no cure.”