Understanding the Issues (AG vs. EF)

2015-0612 Minnesota Epilepy Foundation
A woman shops for used clothing at a Savers thrift store. Picture credit: BRUCE CHAMBERS, MCT

I am not an attorney, I have no background in tax calculation, I do not work for or with either of the companies mentioned in this post, and I do not work for any government agency.

Hopefully, somebody can explain why the Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, is suing the Minnesota Epilepsy Foundation for accepting donations from Savers, a for-profit organization. The article I read, which was written by Jennifer Bjorhus for the Star Tribune, mentioned the lawsuit, but did not explain the reason for the lawsuit in term I could understand. 

According to the article, “Swanson accused the foundation of violating the state’s charities laws through its partnership with Savers, saying it is misleading the public about the extent to which the used goods they donate actually benefit the charity.” In addition, the lawsuit “also accuses the Epilepsy Foundation of filing inaccurate reports with the state because it does not identify Savers as a professional fundraiser.”

In other words, the government is suing the Minnesota Epilepsy Foundation because the Foundation is raising funds to provide services to people with Epilepsy and the Foundation did not identify a thrift store as a professional fundraiser. 

Will someone please explain this insanity to me?


  1. Good grief. Minnesota must be the most law-abiding state in history if the state AG’s office is this desperate for something to do. How ridiculous.

    1. Howard, I agree. Who pays for the lawsuit . . . taxpayers and the beneficiaries of services provided by the Foundation. You could probably argue the thrift store customers suffer an additional burden — they will be taxed and lose the ability to purchase inexpensive clothing.

  2. Below is a better explaination of the story as written by nprnews.org

    Boy I hate seeing a non-profit like this taking the heat.

    Weeks after suing the thrift store chain Savers over its donation practices, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing the Epilepsy Foundation for letting Savers use signage “misleading” to donors.

    Swanson on Monday said Savers stores in Minnesota were soliciting donations of clothing and household merchandise on behalf of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, “even though donations at those stores did not benefit the foundation,” a fact that’s not disclosed to donors, she added.

    “When a fundraising company is used, oftentimes they’re taking the lion’s share of the donation for themselves and giving just a small, residual amount to the charity. And that’s what was going on here,” she said.

    Swanson said that if Savers registered as a fundraising company, donors could see how much of contributions go to charities.

    The lawsuit alleges charities law violations, including using an unregistered professional fundraiser, “false and misleading solicitations, failure to provide required disclosures to donors, filing of inaccurate reports with the state, and failure to file documents required by Minnesota law,” Swanson’s office said.

    The suit is the latest in a series of moves against Savers by Swanson, who’s accused the well-known thrift chain of giving pennies on the dollar for donations it collects on behalf of Minnesota charities.

    1. Cheryl, thanks for the update. However, the update does not change my belief, the lawsuit against the Foundation is a complete waste of Foundation resources. They should be reimbursed for their expenses fighting the AG, and the AG should be removed from office for bullying a Foundation that serves the needs of many people. If a charity spends $1,000,000 to make $1,500,000 they would not make without spending the $1,000,000, they should be allowed to make that decision. Public and private companies use that same approach frequently — it’s called advertising. Furthermore, the idea a donation made by a store is somehow different than the donation provided by the combined stores of a corporation is absurd. As such, it should not matter which stores are making a donation and which are not.

  3. It looks like Savers was the problem. The Epilepsy association is 1 of the charities. Guilty by association?

    1. Angela, guilt by association is certainly a plausible explanation, but I would think the relationship could be understood by with an investigation rather than a lawsuit. It is difficult to imagine the not-for-profit foundation did anything wrong. If it had, I think the IRS would be investigating.

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