Santorum aides rip off charity

Looks like self-righteous Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has some explaining to do as a review of expenses for his fancy charity Operation Good Neighbor charity shows less than half the money raised actually goes out in contributions while a big chunk goes to pay fat salaries to aides.

As reported in today’s Blue:

Sen. Rick Santorum’s charity donated about 40 percent of the $1.25 million it spent during a four-year period, well below Better Business Bureau standards — paying out the rest for overhead, including several hundred thousand dollars to campaign aides on the charity payroll.

The charity, Operation Good Neighbor, is described on its Web site as an organization promoting "compassionate conservatism" by providing grants to small nonprofit groups, many of them religious.

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance says charitable organizations should spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on program activities.

Operation Good Neighbor is based at the same address as Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum’s campaign office in suburban Philadelphia, and some of the same people who have worked on his campaign are working for his charity and collecting money from it, records show.

Among them:

  • Maria Diesel, who has been paid fundraising fees by the campaign, is listed as the charity’s finance director. Filings show she has received $192,958 in professional fundraising fees from Operation Good Neighbor.
  • Robert Bickhart, who has also been involved in raising campaign funds for Santorum, is listed as the charity’s executive director. Filings show he has earned $75,000 in salary from the charity since 2001 and that his business, Capitol Resource Group, rents the office space to the charity. The charity has paid $20,437 in occupancy fees, filings show.

Santorum, the No. 3 Senate Republican, is embroiled in a tough campaign against his leading Democratic opponent, State Treasurer Bob Casey.