Salem, OR- The Oregon War Veterans Association (OWVA) filed a request for a Restraining Order (TRO) against John Kroger, the Oregon Attorney General (AG) in Federal Court on Friday, October 22, 2010, along with a request for a Permanent Injunction (PI) to prevent him from potentially violating the First Amendment rights of OWVA’s donors and members.
The purpose behind the OWVA’s filing of the Federal lawsuit and restraining order request, against the AG is to protect the OWVA’s private donor and member personal information, and other private information from being distributed to the media as part of an AG audit, which Kroger’s office has said is legal for him to do, according to the Public Records Law.
The OWVA argues (in part) that the PRL was written to keep public agencies and employee transactions transparent to the public, but NOT to invade the privacy of private organizations or individuals, which would be a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution. Jim Bopp, (Bopp, Coleson and Bostrom) the Senior Litigator for the OWVA released the following statement to the media, after the court filings, last Friday:
”Under the First Amendment, groups have the right to associate privately if they want to do so. That includes the right to keep their internal documents private. Compelled public disclosure of private documents, such as that contemplated by Oregon’s law, violates this principle.”
The case has been scheduled to be heard in Federal Court on November 16, 2010, at the Eugene, OR, Federal Courthouse.
Since its inception in 2003, there has never been a formal complaint filed against the OWVA from any person or agency. The OWVA is well known for its very public, statewide fundraising campaigns, which have been referred to by members of the civilian and military communities as “heroic.” The OWVA has won many awards for its support of veterans and military families in Oregon.
The Oregon Attorney General, has made public statements about his plans to investigate veteran charities for their use of expensive, third-party fundraising companies, and has shut down several groups who he has since called “scams.”
But, the OWVA has never used professional fundraising companies to raise money for their projects. The OWVA’s executive director, Greg Warnock has told members of the media that, “the OWVA has been very successful at raising awareness for veteran and military issues in Oregon, and has seen exceptional, direct public support for our projects like ‘Operation Holiday Airlift” and the ’06 Save Christmas’ projects. Our fundraising has never been questioned by our donors or supporters.”
So, there are a lot of questions about whether the AG’s decision to include the OWVA in Kroger’s veteran investigations is being done out of other (maybe political) motives.
The OWVA is a 501(c)(19) war veterans membership association, which is a veteran non-profit organization which can be involved in legislative and political advocacy projects as part of its mission. The OWVA has been involved in supporting over 74 pieces of pro-veteran related legislation since 2003.
Some of the legislation has been actively opposed by the AG’s office, including bills that would repair the credit of disabled veterans who paid child support payments (Hardy Meyers opposed: 2003’s HB2111, HB 3472; 2007’s SB 1030; John Kroger Opposed: 2009’s SB923). The OWVA also prepared to file a class-action litigation against the AG on the disabled veteran issues and fought the AG’s office on the very public, Jeff Maxwell Gun-rights case.
“Our advocacy work for veterans has seen several oppositions from the AG’s office, from as far back as 2003,” reported Warnock to the OWVA Board of Directors in a recent special meeting of their board. “So the motives behind the audit certainly look to be politically motivated.”
Warnock told members of their legal team that the OWVA isn’t opposed to being audited or investigated, “because our CPA approved books are in good order, and our public fundraising has been done above board. We’ve won awards for our projects, and the public and media has learned to trust us.”
But the huge expense of the questionable audit incurred by the organization makes them frustrated, when they could be raising and spending money on their charitable projects. “That’s the real problem,” said Warnock.
The OWVA is trying not to let this “distraction,” as they call it, from keeping them active in their advocacy efforts. Warnock has been telling supporters that, “every year, we are called to help our military families and veterans during the holidays. The recession has hit us hard, and we need to raise more money than ever to give the help that is expected from us.” He says that they need more help than ever, now that they are fighting for the First Amendment Rights as well as for their other veteran issues.
The OWVA has made donating to their causes very easy, with online contribution options and direct deposits to the Oregon War Veterans Association (account ending in #7715) at any US Bank.
Visit their website (WWW.OWVA.ORG )for more information on their successful past projects, and how to make charitable contributions- or donors can send checks to their mailing address at OWVA, PO Box 8043, Salem, OR 97303.