Iowans give millions to sheriffs’ group that spends only 34% on charity

By: - January 9, 2023 4:27 pm

Less than 34% of the $2.6 million Iowans have donated to an Iowa sheriffs’ group has been used for the stated charitable purpose. (Iowa Capital Dispatch illustration using ISSDA solicitations and IRS filings)

Less than 34% of the $2.6 million Iowans have donated to an Iowa sheriffs’ group in recent years has been used for the stated purpose of training officers and helping underprivileged children.

Newly disclosed tax filings by the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association Institute indicate the organization raised more money in 2021 than at any time in the past 20 years. The records indicate Iowans donated $525,083 in 2021 – a 22% increase over the previous year.

Iowans who donate to the institute are typically told their money will be used to provide “critical support and training” for law enforcement and will help send underprivileged children to camp and provide support for the Iowa Special Olympics.

Since 2016, Iowans have given $2,608,941 to the cause, according to tax records. During that same time, the institute has reported spending $883,778 – just over a third of the total amount that was donated – on the charitable purposes outlined in its solicitations.

For example, in the 12-month period that that ended in November 2021, the institute raised $525,083 in donations. It reported spending $445,000 that year, with its biggest expenses being fundraising fees, conventions and meetings:

Professional fundraising fees: $180,480

Conventions and meetings: $128,172

Management expenses: $65,668

Underprivileged children sent to camp: $57,250

Iowa Special Olympics donation: $10,000

Sheriff: Donations ‘keep our community safe’ 

The ISSDA Institute’s tax filings indicate the organization raises money from Iowans largely through direct-mail solicitations, some of which bear the signature of an Iowa sheriff.

Earlier this year, for example, central Iowa residents received solicitations on a letterhead that stated, in bold letters, “from SHERIFF Kevin Schneider, Polk County” alongside the badge-shaped insignia of the institute. The letter was signed by Schneider not as an ISSDA member but as the county sheriff, who asked for donations to “keep our community safe.”

Polk County Sheriff Kevin Schneider (Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

The letter stated: “Your support for the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association Institute (ISSDAI) is needed today in order for us to provide not only critical support and training to your sheriff’s office, but also much-needed funding for our YMCA Camp in Boone and Iowa Special Olympics.”

Unlike most nonprofits, the institute reports to the IRS that the donations raised by its hired fundraiser are actually “membership fees.” Out of $525,083 the institute raised in 2021, it paid $180,480 in fees to its hired fundraiser. The institute reported to the IRS the fundraiser is a company named Paramount Strategies.

However, Paramount Strategies is not a fundraising company; it is a lobbying firm that represents the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association and other clients at the Iowa Capitol. Company president Tony Phillips said Monday that Paramount Strategies has done no fundraising work for the association or the institute.

Washington County Sheriff Jared Schneider, who is the financial director of the ISSDA, said Monday morning that he couldn’t answer questions about the organization’s finances, but that he or someone else would get back to the Iowa Capital Dispatch with information.

No one from the ISSDA subsequently contacted the Capital Dispatch, and neither the organization’s president or secretary could be reached for comment. Polk County Sheriff Kevin Schneider was also unavailable for comment.

In years past, the institute has reported paying an Oklahoma fundraising company called ResourceOne, also known as Altus Marketing, to raise money from Iowans through direct-mail solicitations

ISSDA speaker has compared U.S. Capitol police to Nazis

The conventions and meetings of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, which provide some of the training for which donations are solicited, have generated controversy in the past.

In 2021, the ISSDA’s annual conference had as its keynote speaker KrisAnne Hall, a Florida attorney who is among the leading proponents of the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” movement.

KrisAnne Hall (Photo courtesy of the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office)

Hall argues that the federal government has no authority that exceeds that of the nation’s elected county sheriffs. She has called government decisions to close down businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as unlawful, and has said America is now a “full-on Marxist” state bent on forcing people to become vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Because this is America, they have to feed you lies to keep you under their Marxist agenda,” Hall says in one of her videos.

Hall has also questioned the authority of the U.S. Capitol police, whom she has compared to Nazi Germany’s S.S., or Schutzstaffel, and questioned the FBI’s authority to arrest those involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“The FBI does not have jurisdiction in your state, your county, or your city,” Hall has told sheriffs. “The sheriff can override the governor and kick the feds out of the county.”

In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Hall had addressed the Florida chapter of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that the SPLC considers a hate group. In defense of her decision to speak to the group, Hall told the SPLC that “our states are not fiefdoms under subjugation to an unquestionable despot.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.