Utah Senator Mike Lee, Sarah Palin, Becky Beach and Todd Palin, posing together
with a dog of the "Puppy Jake Foundation" in Des Moines, Iowa in November 2013
The year 2015 is off to an unexpected, and furious start: Sarah Palin's facebook post about their new dog "Jill Hadassah" being used as a "stepping stone" for six-year old Trig caused a massive dispute, due to Sarah Palin's usual outrageous, unreasonable response, which she has developed to an art form. We wrote about this in detail in our previous post. In this post, we also exclusively revealed that the founder of the "Puppy Jake Foundation", the new non-profit organization which supplied Sarah Palin's dog, a highly influential Republican operative called Becky (Rebecca) Beach from Iowa, has a considerable criminal record with two quite recent convictions and prison sentences. We also explained in detail Becky Beach's extensive Republican background, and her impressive connections, for example to the Bush-family.
Becky Beach and Jeff Lamberti are Sarah Palin's friends, and last year they supplied with great PR-fanfare the puppy dog "Jill"to Sarah Palin, in an apparent media stunt. Becky Beach and Sarah Palin go back a very long way. They met already in 2011, and Becky Beach was also an advisor to "ShePAC", the pro-Palin PAC which was formed by SarahPAC-Treasurer Tim Crawford.
From Sarah Palin's facebook (links HERE and HERE):
However, I do not want to talk about dogs in this post. We will come back to them at a later point! While reading about Becky Beach, I realized that there is so much to discover. There is another story which involves Becky Beach which provides fascinating insights into the unholy web of Republican politics, fundraising, consulting, conflicts of interests and money. Lots of money, actually!
The story has been the subject of extensive investigations carried out by several news outlets in Iowa in 2014. It is very newsworthy indeed, and offers deep insights into the sometimes questionable world of "non-profits." According to media outlets, the investigations started after whistleblowers came forward. Becky Beach is very much at the center of what could very well be called a fundraising scandal, although this is up for anyone's personal assessment of the details to decide. What I would like to do here is to present the facts, and then you can decide yourself how to label the events, or what to think about them.
Sometimes these stories can be are rather boring, but not this one! It really is quite exciting, and that's why I want to write about it. The details are also very educational.
We have two main participants, these are (from this 2012 article):
1. Becky Beach
2. Jeff Lamberti
The two are connected in very many ways. They both are for example the presidents of the newly founded "Puppy Jake Foundation" from Des Moines, Iowa, which is one of their connections to Sarah Palin. This new non-profit organization has become rather famous after it supplied with huge PR-efforts the puppy "Jill Hadassah " to Sarah Palin, as explained in our previous post.
But there is much more.
Both are for example also members of the board of another non-profit organization, the "Pacific Battleship Center", a "registered 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that operates the Battleship USS Iowa as a museum & education platform."
Screenshot from the Board of Directors of the "Pacific Battleship Center" - and the name of the "Honorary Chairman" also rings a bell:
One of the "vendors" of the Pacific Battleship Center is the PR-firm "Riverside Partners Inc." According to investigations by media outlets, the Pacific Battleship Center owes the PR-firm "Riverside Partners Inc." the sum of roughly $ 800,000.
The owners of Riverside Partners Inc.: Becky Beach and Jeff Lamberti.
So I do hope that I have caught your interest here!
Let'a summarize what we know so far: Becky Beach and Jeff Lamberti are at the Board of Directors of the non-profit organization "Pacific Battleship Center." At the same time, they own a PR-firm which has an outstanding balance of about $ 800,000 towards the "Pacific Battleship Center."
This already has the "smell" of unethical dealings, but as I said, everyone should form his or her own opinion about this.
Where does this enormous debt actually come from? This is where things already get quite complicated - because I could not find a "final" answer to this question.
"The Gazette" explains it as follows:
Associations can be complicated, and Lamberti's association with the USS IOWA has a couple layers.
He left the Iowa Legislature after the 2006 session, and that year ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress, he said.
The next year or so, he formed Riverside Partners with Becky Beach of Des Moines, who worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and on Republican campaigns in Iowa since then, including Lamberti's Congressional campaign.
Riverside Partners was designed as a political consulting and fundraising business, Lamberti said.
By 2009 and 2010, Riverside Partners was hired by the USS IOWA not-for-profit organization for consulting and fundraising help. Later, Lamberti became the unpaid chairman of the USS Iowa museum board and Beach the unpaid board's secretary.
Lamberti said the challenge to save the USS IOWA became acute in the past few years when the U.S. Navy wanted the not-for-profit to take possession of the ship and the organization was running out of money.
At that point, the Iowa Legislature provided a $3 million grant, and Lamberti said he personally guaranteed a $300,000 loan to contribute to the effort to refurbish the battleship, tow it to Los Angeles harbor and open it as a museum. Every year he pays interest on the loan, which has now amounted to $20,000 to $30,000, so the battleship museum doesn't face the expense.
According the battleship not-for-profit's 2012 tax return, the organization has the $300,000 outstanding obligation to Lamberti and a $500,000 one to Riverside Partners.
Lamberti said the latter is for consulting work that he and Beach did previously for the organization.
OK, so here is my first question: It says in the article the Lamberti "personally guaranteed a $ 300,000 loan." What exactly does that mean? Did he provide the money himself?
Although Lamberti pays interest, "$ 20,000 to 30,000" so far, the article continues to say:
Lamberti said he and Beach agreed to reduce the amount they are owed, though he said it is unclear if the ship museum, which has been opened less than two years, ever will be able to pay them. He said he hopes to see the not-for-profit pay off the principal on the $300,000 loan, but not the interest.
So now he doesn't want the interest? And they also want to "reduce the amount?" Oh well, I guess they suddenly realized that a consulting fee of $ 500,000 for a non-profit organization which you run yourself might seem...pretty outrageous, to say the least?
But if you think that this is everything, you are mistaken indeed.
Strangely, an extensive investigation by CBS 2 News revealed that the IRS-filing of "Riverside Partners Inc." for 2012 lists the $ 300,000 as well as the $ 500,000 as "loans":
Lamberti and a woman named Becky Beach are partners in an Iowa corporation called Riverside Partners, Inc.; a for-profit entity according to filings with the Iowa Secretary of State. Battleship Iowa hired them for fundraising services in 2010.(Video of the TV-report is HERE)
Fast forward to 2012, CBS 2 News has learned through a 2012 IRS filing by Battleship Iowa that the now Chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, Jeff Lamberti, guaranteed a loan to the non-profit in the amount of $300,000. On the same filing, Lamberti and Beachs company, Riverside Partners Inc, is listed with a $500,000 loan to the non-profit. Riverside Partners and Battleship Iowa say that money is owed for services they previously provided.
Screenshot from CBS 2 News of the IRS filing for 2012:
We obtained the tax return form for the Pacific Battleship Center for 2012.
Here is the screenshot for the loans (click to enlarge):
Please note that there does not even exist a written agreement about the loans:
How shady can it get!
In the "Financial Statements" of the group for 2012 and 2013, the following is mentioned about the loans (download the report HERE):
After checking the form for the tax returns 2013 for the Pacific Battleship Center, I saw that a little miracle has happened: According to the form, a written agreement for the loans now suddenly exists!
I think this has to be divine intervention...
Screenshots (click to enlarge):
So what is the debt of $ 500,000 now for? For consulting fees, or for a loan? Becky Beach and Jeff Lamberti seem to rather uncertain about this point.
If this was not all strange enough, it gets even weirder.
Jeff Lamberti was the chairman of the "Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission" from June 2012 to April 2014.
So, why not ask casinos in Iowa to donate money to the "Pacific Battleship Center?" Now, after Jeff Lamberti has been appointed the chairman of their most important commission, the casinos might open their wallets even more willingly...?
(Which would be especially nice if the "Pacific Battleship Center" personally owes you hundreds of thousands of dollars).
Well, this is exactly what Becky Beach did: She started to ask the casinos for money. If there is one thing teabaggers are REALLY good at, then it's finding out how to get the cash. It's in their genes, I guess.
The Iowa media outlet "Random Lenghts News" made a huge investigation into this issue - screenshots from their print version, with two familiar faces:
Excerpt from the article:
This past May, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa newspaper, The Gazette, published a series of stories regarding the Gaming and Casinos commission April 17 vote on whether to grant a proposed Cedar Rapids casino a state gaming license. Lamberti, who voted no with the majority 4-1, against the proposal, has been dogged by conflict of interest allegations ever since.
The allegations center on donations made to the Pacific Battleship Center by two casinos that opposed the Cedar Rapids venture.
Lamberti has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying that the four commissioners who voted against the proposal as a result of the findings of two independent studies that a Cedar Rapids casino would damage nearby casinos.
CBS 2 News explained the details of the donations from casinos to the "Pacific Battleship Center", which apparently only started after Jeff Lamberti was appointed chairman of the commission:
2012 is also the first year money comes to Battleship Iowa from Iowa casinos. According to Battleship Iowa, since 2012, donations from Iowa casinos have totaled $250,000.(Video of the TV-report is HERE)
"Random Lengths News" reported:
According public records, the Williams Knapp Foundation donated $35,000 to the Pacific Battleship Center, while Riverside Casino CEO, Dan Kehl donated $100,000 to the Battleship Center in 2012 through the Kehl Family Foundation. Local news outlets in Iowa at the time reported that Prairie Meadows and Riverside Casino together donated $110,000 just before the April 17 vote. The connection between these monies and the Gaming Casino Commission vote has never been made clear.
I do not know whether the money from casinos influenced any decisions, as discussed for example in the article by "Random Lenghts News" quoted above. But much more relevant is the obvious fact that this type of fundraising undoubtedly has the huge smell of being unethical, due to the fact that Jeff Lamberti and Becky Beach expected to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars himself by the Pacific Battleship Center, while being board members at the same time.
But now Lamberti is not so sure anymore whether he wants the money. He now denies that he personally wants to receive money from the "Pacific Battleship Center", although from his explanations, I am not sure what he really wants to express:
Lamberti told The Gazette, at the time, that any fundraising fees related to contributions from casino interests may go to Beach working on her own, but none have or will go to him, even though they are the principals of Riverside Partners.
“We’ve been very careful to make sure that if there are any of those activities (casino contributions), there is a complete wall between me and those funds,” Lamberti said. “And those (casino) funds can never be used to pay Riverside Partners.”
CBS 2 News was apparently also confused by these statements and followed up in an interview with Lamberti:
Mr. Lamberti is out of town, but CBS2/FOX28 spoke to him via phone today.(Video of the TV-report is HERE)
He insists his personal loan would never be paid with casino money given to the ship. CBS2/FOX28S Tiffany ODonnell asked, How do you know? Lamberti replied, Because thats what I did when I secured that loan, and everyone is under the understanding that thats the policy of the board and quite frankly, I would never be allowed to be repaid out of those funds, because we have been very careful about keeping a wall between anything that's related to casino interest and anything that would relate to me.
Tiffany then asked, Is that documented somewhere? Lamberti replied, You know, I dont know that its specifically documented. Its certainly the understanding of everybody on the Board, and of course I would never accept it.
He says the same is true for the $500,000 outstanding balance owed to his company with Ms. Beach, Riverside Partners, Inc. Much like anything owed to me, that would never be paid out of gaming money, said Lamberti.
Screenshot from CBS 2 News:
So Lamberti basically stated that although he owns Riverside Partners Inc. together with Becky Beach, he does not want to accept casino money. But how do you separate the casino money from the other money which the "Pacific Battleship Center" receives...? I mean, money is money, right, it goes all in one big pot, am I correct? If I am not correct, then I would more be happy for Becky Beach or Jeff Lamberti to explain it to me, because I did not understand this statement by Jeff Lamberti at all.
CBS 2 News also spoke with Becky Beach, and she made things even more confusing with her own statement (from the transcript):
Then there's the question of who was doing the asking for the donations in the first place.(Video of the TV-report is HERE)
While Riverside Partners was hired to fundraise, Beach says she did it on her own.
Tiffany asked Beach Did you ask those casinos in 2012 for the initial donations?
Beach replied, You bet.
And that had nothing to do with Riverside Partners.
Tiffany asked, So how does that work? You guys are partners.
Beach replied, Let me tell you how it works. I send the ship an invoice from me and they send me a 1099 and I pay taxes directly on the money I receive from them. It doesnt go through Riverside Partners, it goes directly to me personally.
Screenshot from CBS 2 News:
OK, I see. It was Becky Beach who asked the casinos for the donations, no surprise there.
But: EXCUSE ME? The money which is owed to Riverside Partners now suddenly goes to Becky Beach "personally", it "doesn't go through Riverside Partners" any more...?
Well, good for Becky Beach! That's what I would call "extreme creative book-keeping." I am not an accountant, but I would bet quite a bit of money that things do not work like that.
This is what we know so far about this affair, you could call it "Battleship-Gate", and it should also be noted that the mentioned amount of about $ 800,000 is not everything, as "Random Lengths News" explained in their first article of this investigation, from October 2014:
Salazar forwarded a list of Pacific Battle Center vendors that were paid between 2008 and 2014. On that list, board President Jeff Lamberti and board Secretary Rebecca Beach were paid $17,037.82 and $102,146.07, respectively. The document does not reflect when those monies were paid or for what services those monies were paid. But generally, board members of a nonprofit organization are not paid positions.
These two board members are important for another reason. Lamberti, who is gaming commissioner in the State of Iowa recently came under scrutiny for his votes favoring casinos that donated to the USS Iowa. Beach is Lambert’s business partner with whom he formed Riverside Partners, a political consulting and fundraising firm. Riverside Partners was also listed as one of the USS Iowa’s vendors. Read more about this in the next edition of Random Lengths.
(Article No. 2 is HERE and No. 3 is HERE)
So, the "unpaid" board members Becky Beach and Jeff Lamberti actually already received payments, as "vendors." It is not clear when they were paid, according the Random Lengths, and not even clear for what services. It is more than obvious that these open questions alone demand an official investigation - as does the issue as a whole, with the additional "loans" of $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 from Riverside Partners, and the donations of $ 250,000 from the casinos to the "Pacific Battleship Center" while Jeff Lamberti was the chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
No surprise that Becky Beach and Sarah Palin are best friends. They both have an uncanny talent to spot where the funds can be found. ;-)
Most of the details which I have mentioned are summarized in the quoted report by CBS 2 News (the transcript is HERE):
Usually, in these circumstances, an official investigation should follow. Maybe it will? But I guess that in "Republicaland" you can get away with a lot these days.
Next will then probably follow the chapter about dogs and humans in Iowa, the famous country with the infamous Republican operatives.