DENVER - A charity known for the controversial sermons delivered by Colorado Springs lawmaker Gordon Klingenschmitt raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2014 and spent almost all of its donations sending mailers and soliciting funds.
Klingenschmitt opened up his nonprofit's finances for scrutiny to The Gazette last week in an effort to be transparent after some questioned the finances of Persuade the World Ministries, which does business as Pray in Jesus Name Ministries.
Klingenschmitt provided three years of tax returns, an audited financial statement and access to his certified public accountant.
The Gazette found Klingenschmitt doesn't accept a salary or other compensation from the charity, and he appears to be keeping the finances separate from his for-profit entity - which shares a website with the nonprofit and a similar name Pray in Jesus Name Project.
Among the things Klingenschmitt has been criticized for by the group Colorado Government Watch is the close relationship between his nonprofit and his for-profit businesses and the appearance of impropriety.
Klingenschmitt insists he keeps the books and operations separate.
What the charity does do is send mailers - lots of mailers - in a self-perpetuating cycle of self-promotion and fundraising. Almost all of the money raised by the nonprofit is paid to a single vendor in McLean, Va.: Fund Raising Strategies Inc., also called Eberle Associates.
"Persuade the World Ministries doing business as Pray in Jesus Name Ministries promotes the gospel of Jesus Christ," Klingenschmitt said in an interview on Friday. "We do that four or five different ways. We broadcast a national television show every weekday into 54 million homes on satellite TV. We print and give away free gospel booklets including over 350,000 copies of the Gospel of John, 50,000 copies of the Gospel of Luke, 50,000 copies of the U.S. Constitution and another 50,000 copies of the 'Four Chaplains Booklet.'"
According to an amended 2014 tax return Klingenschmitt made available to The Gazette, the nonprofit spent $29,780 on TV production.
It also spent $625,927 on printing and postage and $127,665 on other fees and administrative expenses. All of that money was paid to Fund Raising Strategies, according to Klingenschmitt and his accountant.
Persuade the World Ministries raised $825,679 in 2014, according to the tax document known as a 990. In total, the nonprofit spent more than it took in that year, spending $905,866. Other expenses included: $78,950 for management, $5,690 for advertising and promotion, $5,954 for information technology, and $6,875 for travel. Also, an unspecified grant or other assistance of $11,281.
There's nothing illegal about that, or even outside the realm of best practices for nonprofits that regularly hire outside companies to manage their fundraisers and finances.
"One needs to look at the circumstances of the fundraising efforts," said Renny Fagan, president and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association.
Fagan didn't want to get into specifics about Pray in Jesus Name, but spoke generally about best practices for nonprofits.
"A nationwide fundraising effort, that's costly," Fagan said. "But it also gets the name of the organization widely spread. The rule would be really, is it good business judgment ... how much expense should be spent raising funds. Do the donors need to know, and what percentage of their dollars is going directly to the program?"
Fagan said it's up to individual donors to decide if their donation is being used in a way that fulfills their intent. If the nonprofit is transparent about how the money is used, then the donors can decide whether to give.
The stated purpose of Klingenschmitt's nonprofit is "to educate the world about Jesus."
"We ask people to donate through direct mail. People do donate and our program is in the black," Klingenschmitt said. "I don't take a dime of salary from that. But our budget is growing, our fundraiser has been successful, and I do pay a fundraiser fee, and I do pay an administrative fee and they have earned it. They deserve that. I think it's worth it to promote the gospel and to get the words of Jesus into people's hands."
Klingenschmitt provided four examples of the mailers his nonprofit sent in 2014.
He sent 350,000 copies of the Gospel of John, which doesn't appear to directly solicit funds for Pray in Jesus Name Ministries.
But the other three mailers do ask for donations. Klingenschmitt said about 150,000 of them were sent.
"Please help a chaplain whose faith is under fire. Here's how: 1. Sign the cover of this booklet and return it to me using the provided postage paid envelope. When you do that I'll deliver it to a Christian chaplain as your gift of faith ... 2. Send a tax-deductible gift of $25 to help support America's persecuted Christian chaplains. 3. Join me right now in praying for our chaplains and country."
In other places, the mailers describe donations being used "to expand our TV news program to 26 new stations," "deliver more ... booklets to persecuted chaplains," and "allows us to broadcast in all 50 states and to reach more chaplains with more booklets."
Klingenschmitt, also known as Chaps, was a chaplain in the Navy and is a graduate of the Air Force Academy. He was court-martialed and removed from the military in 2006 after he attended a political rally in front of the White House wearing his uniform. Klingenschmitt said then and maintains he was punished for "praying in Jesus' name" and generally launching a public campaign against a policy prohibiting chaplains from praying in Jesus' name at mandatory military events.
His website prayinjesusname.org devotes a long page to that history.
The website also solicits donations for Pray in Jesus Name Ministries.
It also solicits donations for Klingenschmitt's for-profit company, GJK Inc., In all places it makes clear donations to GJK Inc. go to support his political work and are not tax-deductible.
Small donations of $5 made to both the nonprofit and GJK Inc., were charged to a company called Conservative Donations with the same address in Waynesboro, Va., as a business called Response Unlimited, which sells access to mailing lists of conservative donors for those wishing to send direct mail messages for political, fundraising or religious reasons.
Klingenschmitt said Response Unlimited manages his website and processes donations for him, but the funds are kept separate between his for-profit and his nonprofit.
"Believe it or not, I try to be a stickler on separation of church and state when it comes to tax law," Klingenschmitt said. "The reason I have a for-profit corporation, which pays its taxes fully to do my political work, is I don't want to abuse my nonprofit to do political work."
That political work includes faxing petitions to members of Congress on a variety issues. Those faxes are sent from websites with the letterhead Pray in Jesus Name Project and a separate website called faxcongress.com.
"Response Unlimited is a different vendor and they handle, and have handled since 2009, GJK's political faxing delivery system," Klingenschmitt said. "So the for-profit corporation works with Response the nonprofit corporation works with Eberle and there's no connection whatsoever."
Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644