Friday, April 07, 2006

State asked to investigate Schindlers

State asked to investigate Schindlers

By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer

Published April 6, 2006

A lawyer involved in the Terri Schiavo saga has asked the state to investigate whether two foundations set up by Schiavo's parents and siblings unlawfully used charitable contributions for lobbying activity. California lawyer Jon Eisenberg filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services last week and sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service. Eisenberg alleged that Terri Schiavo's family has used the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation Inc. to collect tax-exempt donations that were then funneled to the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation Center for Health Care Ethics, a lobbying group. Laws prevent charities from funneling their tax-exempt contributions to lobbying groups. "A charity can set up a lobbying arm, but it must keep the two organizations strictly separated financially," said Eisenberg, who helped represent Michael Schiavo in his efforts to have Terri's feeding tube removed. "In this case, I don't think they are doing that." Samantha Chechele, an attorney for the two foundations, said Wednesday that Eisenberg's allegations are without merit. The money collected by the nonprofit foundation has remained in its bank account or has been used for legitimate purposes. Chechele also emphasized that anyone who gave money to the lobbying organization was told clearly that the contributions were not tax-exempt. She denied any funds have been commingled. "I've been over the books myself with a fine-tooth comb, and I know the funds are being kept separate," Chechele said. The two foundations were set up by Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and her brother and sister. They fought against Michael Schiavo for years to keep Terri alive. Several doctors stated, and courts ultimately agreed, that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state. She died March 31, 2005, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed. Terence McElroy, a spokesman for the Agriculture and Consumer Services Department, said the foundations will receive a letter asking for a response to the complaint, a standard procedure. The department also has assigned an investigator to ensure the inquiry proceeds without problems, McElroy said. "We made the decision because of the visibility of the case," he said.[Last modified April 6, 2006, 01:58:09]

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Cheryl Ford, RN ( is not affiliated with any other group and works to protect the rights of the disabled community

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