President Obama's half-brother runs an off-the-books American charity that claims to support poor Kenyans -- but it lies about its federal status and no one knows how it spends its money.That could be a bit problematic.
The group, the Barack H. Obama Foundation, was named after the president's father and founded by his sibling Abon'go Malik "Roy" Obama, a 53-year-old polygamist who recently made headlines by adding a third wife -- who's still in her teens.
Its Web site claims to have provided drinking water in Kenya's Siaya District, which includes the Obama clan's ancestral village. The organization also says it has completed a madrassa, or Muslim school, and is building an imam's residence. A photo of the tidy little school building is displayed on the site.
That and other photos on the site are the only purported evidence that the nonprofit has accomplished any of its mission.
A group of Missouri State college students who visited the Obama family village of Kogelo in 2009, and who met the president's half-brother, felt something was amiss. They sensed he was an "operator" and decided to give their donation of 400 pounds of medical supplies directly to a local clinic.
"We didn't know what he was going to do with them," said Ken Rutherford, a former Missouri State professor who led the trip and who shared in the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to ban landmines.
Rutherford said the Obamas' relatives are the only Muslims in a village of 4,000 Christians and that Malik has a private mosque on his property.
Malik started his charity the year his brother ran for president.
The foundation claims to be a tax-exempt, federally recognized nonprofit. It is not.
Nor are there any filings of its expenditures, which the IRS requires of larger charities.
Alton Ray Baysden, a former State Department employee at whose Virginia home the charity was founded in 2008, admitted the organization has not even applied for tax-exempt status.
The foundation's Web site includes a donation form that says it has nonprofit status. Charity expert Marcus Owens said knowingly telling donors contributions are tax-deductible if they are not could amount to fraud. "If they haven't applied for exemption, they can't promise their donors that contributions are deductible," said Owens, a lawyer and former IRS official.Don't hold your breath waiting for any comment from the White House.
The National Legal and Policy Center, a Washington, DC, watchdog group, made a formal complaint to the IRS and US Post Office last week alleging fraud.
Malik Obama, reached in Kenya, said the foundation has a budget of $250,000. When asked about why it wasn't a registered charity, Malik, an accountant by trade, said that he was "in process" of changing that. The White House did not return a message seeking comment.
Malik Obama claims he's not looking to capitalize on Barack's name. Sure.
He claims the foundation is entirely his idea "and is not dependent on the endorsement of his brother."
But the foundation seems to be capitalizing on the Obama name. A California-based company is selling T-shirts with the president's image and the phrase "Yes We Cannabis." It promises half of the proceeds will go to the Barack H. Obama Foundation.