By TER Staff
In the summer of 2007 longtime Hollywood actor Jack Scalia set out to raise millions of dollars for injured American troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and around the globe. The new charity was known as 'Operation Velo'. The charity later changed its name to 'Operation American Spirit' (OAS). At the time Scalia said he hoped to raise tens-of-millions of dollars for injured American troops. In a 2007 press conference he even said his plan was to raise 100-million dollars over the next three years. That was not to be. In the winter of 2008, the charity he founded had not only changed its name, it had gone completely out of business.
Scalia says despite the problems in raising money, his effort had "noble intentions" and his motivations were pure and that of a "Patriot". He claims he didn't have the know how or money to pull off his ambitious goals. Scalia told TER he spent tens of thousands of his own money on the project. A different account of the charity comes from insiders and others who say the entire charity project was a little more than a PR stunt designed to boost the ego of the actor and generate some good publicity for him.
Scalia and his charity 'Operation American Spirit' (first dubbed Operation Velo) can be seen here in the initial PR push, with Scalia as its public face:
At the time the charity was able to attract some big celebrity names from Hollywood and the world of politics. People like former NFL great and Presidential candidate Jack Kemp. Hollywood celebrities like Gary Sinese, Kurt Russell and more had their names attached to the charity.
A press release at the time named them and more as lending their efforts to help out Scalia and his charity in assisting injured American troops back home.
The first event for 'Operation American Spirit' was a fund-raising bike tour from Seattle to San Diego to drum up support and raise funds. Scalia and others, including some injured U.S. war vets would actually complete the ride in September of 2007. Scalia made it all the way from start to finish.
The event was documented on the organizations own blog and garnered extensive local and national media attention. The story was covered by 'The Los Angele Times' and 'Entertainment Tonight' and everybody in between. The "story" of what 'Operation American Spirit' was setting out to do was everywhere. Even the Pentagon touted the charity to the public in a press release.
[From Left to right:] Jack Kemp, Jack Scalia, John Wordin, Edra Blixeth
The bike ride was a great media success at the time. On the financial side though it turned out to be a dismal failure. Less than a year after the event, the organization Scalia had launched was gone, overtaken by financial problems and in-fighting between Scalia and the main day-to-day operator and fundraiser John Wordin.
The financial facts about what happened are still in question today.
The charity has yet to file the required IRS tax documents to show exactly how much money it took in and where that money went. Scalia in an extensive interview with The Enterprise Report said the charity raised very little money, but he didn't know exactly how much because a full accounting of the charities finances was still in the works.
The charity was legally founded by Scalia and his girlfriend Edra Blixeth. Blixeth is the former wife of billionaire Tim Blixeth, once one of the richest men in the world Edra Blixeth recently filed for bankruptcy and lost nearly all her wealth in a bitter divorce battle with her former husband. Her own high living lifestyle has been the subject of extensive media coverage.
According to records reviewed by TER and in speaking with various governmental charity regulators, OAS was properly licensed as a charity. It filed proper legal documentation in California and elsewhere in order to operate. The official offices of the charity were directly associated with Blixeth according to official records reviewed by TER.
[Edra Blixeth and Jack Scalia]
Scalia told TER that the charity had good intentions but just couldn't get off the ground with fundraising. He also explained how he sunk tens of thousands of his own money into the cause and ended up with nothing more than the effort to show for it. Since an initial contact with Scalia, Bill Keegan, a spokesman for Scalia has been in ongoing discussions with TER about the charity and it past operations.
When first contacted Scalia claimed that he was unaware that the charity had not filed the proper IRS tax documents concerning the charity's finances. Scalia's spokesman Keegan, told TER back in September of this year:
"As you know, Jack and his fellow patriots formed the organization to support U.S. servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Until your inquiry Jack was not aware that the accounting firm hired to oversee the finances and contributions flow had not filed Form 990 with the IRS. After you and I spoke Jack engaged the accounting firm and a third-party CPA to conduct an audit and file the 990 form with the IRS."
Since then Scalia's spokesman Keegan has continued to claim that the filings were in the works and that TER would be provided the records as soon as they were completed. As of today, the IRS documents have yet to be provided by Keegan or Scalia or anyone else associated with 'Operation American Spirit'. The IRS would not comment on OAS when contacted by TER for comment.
TER spoke extensively with John Wordin, a cyclist and an experienced non-profit charity fund-raiser who was intimately involved in setting up 'Operation American Spirit' and handling the bike ride fundraiser in 2007 for Scalia. In interviews with TER Wooten would said that "OAS was Jack's deal and that if you want to know where all the money went", you'd have to talk to Jack", the accounts were all Jacks". Wordin did tell TER that "the whole thing was mostly an ego trip for Scalia". Scalia told TER he and Wordin did not see "eye to eye" on the project and their personalities didn't mesh.
Injured war veteran's like JR Martinez, (above) who participated in the bike tour from Seattle to San Diego told TER that he hasn't been in contact with the organization since the 2007 ride, but when contacted back then he agreed to participate in the event. He also told TER all of his expenses related to participating were paid for by OAS.
Iraq Army veteran Ryan Kelley (above) on the other hand told TER that he and other vets who names were used in association with OAS and the cycling fundraiser did not authorize the use of their names. Ryan told TER he and other vets were not happy when they saw their names being used without their permission.
Just this week, Scalia spokesman Bill Keegan told The Enterprise Report that he was advised that "990 returns for OAS will be filed today and sent to me" and that he would forward them on to TER. Keegan said he couldn't "explain the delay, other than the accountant was behind on his workload".
TER has not yet received the material.
The "bottom line" facts about how much money 'Operation American Spirit' raised and spent and on what has yet to be determined.
TER will stay on the story.