Accusations Fizzle Against Congressional Candidate David Bellavia
An accusation of misappropriation of charity funds against a veteran and Congressional candidate appears to be coming apart under scrutiny.
David Bellavia, an Iraq War combat veteran, Silver Star recipient, author and Congressional candidate has been caught up in a flap over a charity he helped co-found. Bellavia, currently running as a Republican for the 27th district of New York, co-founded the Warrior Legacy Foundation – a non-partisan organization that is “committed to the protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America’s warriors,” as well as Vets for Freedom, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping elect veterans to public office.
Bellavia is currently locked in a primary election battle against County Executive Chris Collins for the Republican nomination. The winner will run against Democratic incumbent Kathleen C. Hochul in the general election in November.
At issue: One Marian Gray wrote a letter to a local newspaper detailing an encounter with Bellavia, describing Bellavia’s relationship with his charity. The letter stated that Gray questioned Bellavia about his source of income since being discharged from the Army. The also letter asserted that Bellavia had “no visible means of support,” other than being supported by his charity operation, and that Bellavia was “evasive” when questioned about how he was supporting himself.
The letter concluded by accusing Bellavia of using his charity to support himself and to pay himself to run for Congress:
“Obviously after discharge, he has not held a “real” job. His “charity” as he calls it is for himself. Even if he did contribute to another’s campaign, this alleged foundation is basically for his own material gain. David Bellavia has neither legislative experience nor any apparent intellectual skills indicating he could represent anyone but himself. His vague and clearly inadequate responses and his own description of his life border on my definition of sleazy.”
Bellavia is the author of the critically-acclaimed House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, which was published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. House to House, an account of the vicious 2nd Battle of Fallujah of 2004 – the battle in which Bellavia was recommended for his Silver Star, was one of the most commercially successful memoirs of the War on Terror. Recently, Bellavia and his publisher signed a deal with an Oscar-winning Hollywood director to make a movie version of Bellavia’s book – which would seem to account for his recent ability to support himself and his family. Bellavia co-wrote and sold the screenplay.
As of this writing, Charitynavigator.org had no independent review of the operations of the Warrior Legacy Foundation or of Vets For Freedom.
However, the Vets for Freedom IRS Form 910 tax filing is a matter of public record, and Bellavia has released his tax returns from 2006 to 2011 for local journalists to inspect at a press conference on 30 April. Bellavia and stood by to answer questions from the press as they examined his tax returns. According to the Buffalo News, which reviewed the tax returns, the bulk of Bellavia’s income since his discharge from the Army has come from his authorship of House to House, though he has also received compensation at various times as an executive for Steuben Foods and from his work with running a Washington charity foundation.
Bellavia has received a number of milestone payments from his authorship over the last five years, including additional payments upon the release of the paperback edition, translation into additional languages, the sale of international rights, film rights and the sale of the screenplay itself.
Vets for Freedom has donated $1,000 to Congressional races in the 2012 cycle thus far – all to Josh Mandel, a Republican in Ohio, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org). In the 2010 cycle, Vets for Freedom donated $500 to Sean Bielat, a Republican running in Massachusetts.
However, the Vets for Freedom 2009 tax filing (IRS Form 910) lists $75,000 in compensation to Bellavia, for an average of 40 hours per week of work. During that time, Bellavia declared that income on his 2008 individual tax return, according to a campaign source. Vets for Freedom’s tax filing also lists compensation to Pete Hegseth, the VFF president, of $100,000 that year – also for 40 hours per week of work. This was against revenue of $8.72 million that year.
As of March 31, the David Bellavia campaign had raised $31,970, had spent $33,019 and had $7,109 in cash on hand according to OpenSecrets.org. He had not taken any money from political action committees, or PACs; all but $305, which Bellavia had contributed himself, came from individual contributions.
In contrast, the incumbent Representative, Democrat Kathleen Hochul, had raised over $2 million, including $250,000 of her own money. 24 percent of her campaign contributions had come from political action committees.
OpenSecrets listed no data on Collins’ campaign opposing Bellavia’s in the primary election. As of this writing, the Collins campaign has not released any recent tax returns on the candidate.
Are you following this congressional race? What are your thoughts on the accusations against Bellavia? Do you think we need more candidates with military experience as their main resume item? Tell us in the comments!