Note: This call was recorded when I called Stan back after his initial solicitation.
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When I receive one of those interactive voice response robocalls I usually just hang up. On a few occasions I’ve tried to see if I could confuse the computer, especially with some colorful language. I’ll admit, despite me saying some really awful things, these virtual callers are unflappable and never lose their cool or cheery attitude. Maybe I should get them to answer some of the nasty tweets and Facebook comments that come my way.
My most recent call was from Stan. Stan is another happy robo-guy, but unlike most of his colleagues, Stan wanted to talk about a topic of great interest to me: the fire service.
Stan told me he’s raising money for something called the Volunteer Firefighters Association. Stan said the goal of the fundraising drive is “to support legislators who work to keep our communities safe as well as support assistance to the families of firefighters killed or injured in the line-of-duty.”
I pressed my new friend Stan a little bit about the organization he represents. All Stan would share is the Volunteer Firefighters Association is a national program that’s “a project of a federal political committee called Heroes United.” Stan tells me they “push to get candidates elected who support the heroism of volunteer firefighters throughout the country and pushes for increased safety of our volunteer firefighters.”
The weird thing is Stan hung up on me, even though I still had a lot of questions. I thought telemarketers never hang up first.
This prompted me to do my own investigating. Heroes United PAC has been around for about six months. It has a website and an address, 1629 K Street, NW, Suite 300 in Washington, DC. A number of organizations list that address and suite number as their address. The address is connected to OSI shared offices and virtual office space.
This political action committee says it’s mission is to educate members of Congress about issues related to firefighters, law enforcement, military, healthcare workers and teachers. There are no names of individuals associated with Heroes United PAC on the website that I could find. This always gives me pause about donating to an organization.
To learn more, I tried the number Stan was kind enough to give me to learn additional information. It goes to another recording that talks mostly about leaving your name if you want to be taken off the organization’s call list. I left a message, wrote an email to he[email protected] and tweeted to them — @heroesunitedPAC.
Advisory Board Member Alan Bohms called me back. Bohms told me he’s a captain at McDonald Volunteer Fire Department in Tennessee. He also ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year in Tennessee’s 1st District.
Alan was a lot more responsive than Stan, though I still didn’t end up satisfied with all of his answers. We had a long discussion about a few things that raised concerns about Stan’s call.
First was the generic name. For some people not in the know it might imply this is your local volunteer fire department calling. Alan claimed Stan says right away who the Volunteer Firefighters Association represents. I played him the recording to prove that only occurs if you bother to ask Stan questions about the organization.
I also pointed out that there is a WBIW-TV article from November 22 where the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association referred to calls from an organization using the same name as a scam. Alan was unaware of the article or the accusation.
We also had a discussion about Stan saying the line, “… as well as support assistance to the families of firefighters killed or injured in the line-of-duty.” Alan made it clear in our conversation that, as a PAC, Heroes United can’t provide direct assistance to such families. Alan did not think Stan implied they make such donations. We continue to disagree on that issue.
Alan Bohms, who was very kind and talked with me at length, took up my offer to respond in writing to further answer these questions. His full response is below. Alan also sent me a radio public service announcement that you can listen to here.
Since the response fails to address the issues about Stan’s phone solicitation that I brought up in our call, and in a follow-up email and conversation, the Volunteer Firefighters Association and Heroes United PAC will not be getting my money.
Heroes United PAC is a non-partisan independent expenditure-only group established under Section 527 of the tax code. In the six short months since we have organized, our Volunteer Firefighter Association initiative has gained the the support of over 20,000 like-minded concerned citizens that have pledged to help us push and fight government for stronger legislation and elections of candidates that support our firefighters and first responders.
We currently operate through a network of volunteers with no compensated members. All funding we receive is used on issue advocacy and voter mobilization, such as our radio and television public service announcements.
Information submitted by:
Advisory Board Member Alan Bohms,
Captain at McDonald Volunteer Fire Department,
2016 Democratic Nominee U.S. House of Representatives, TN-1st District