The Crawford Peace House, a home started by anti-war activists in the wake of “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan’s demonstrations outside President George Bush’s Texas ranch, has been accused of mismanaging tens of thousands of dollars in donations by an insurgent member who has seized legal control of the group’s name and is calling for a state investigation.
Sara L. Oliver, who left the group in 2005 following a dispute surrounding her efforts to secure grant funding for the organization, and other disaffected members have gone public with their suspicions and accusations against the Peace House, calling for an official investigation into why the group only has $14,700 in its bank account. Tens of thousands in donations, collected during Sheehan’s 2005 anti-war protest at the Crawford site, are unaccounted for, Oliver claims.
“There are people who have said, ‘Don’t say anything because you’ll hurt the peace movement,’” Oliver told Associated Press. “But if the peace movement isn’t pure and transparent and holy as it can be at its heart, then it’s just like George Bush: lying, thieving, conniving, backstabbing bastards.”
The group’s bank account had dwindled to only $3 in early August 2005, but a month-long protest by Sheehan, held in ditches along the road leading to Bush’s ranch, led to thousands of supporters coming to Crawford and many thousands of dollars in donations.
The 2005 protest proved to be a symbiotic arrangement for the Peace House and the thousands of demonstrators who joined Sheehan.
John Wolf (Courtesy IndyBay.org)
Co-founded in 2002 by John Wolf, a theater-set builder from Dallas who raised funds for the small $54,000 home by selling anti-war buttons and contributing $8,000 of his own money, the Peace House served as headquarters for protesters who found few public facilities in the rural Texas town.
An army of about 200 volunteers from the nearby Waco Friends of Peace fixed meals, cleaned the house and tended the garden that helped feed those who turned out.
Sheehan’s protest brought the Peace House back financially, with over $285,000 raised in 2005. In the face of Oliver’s accusation Wolf insisted the money was spent on food, van and bus rentals, gas and a large tent for the rallies at several events.
“All of this money was given to us to take care of people who came here, and that’s what we did,” Wolf told Associated Press. “If somebody has fantasies, I can’t affect that.”
Another ex-member, Sandra Row, said she had seen buckets of cash donations in the Peace House in 2005. Some of that money, she said, had been used to pay veterinary bills for a cat living on the property, but many of those who bought supplies for the demonstrators were never compensated. As many as 75 people have quit the group because of grievances over financial matters.
“You’ll never know how much money there is because the cash is gone,” Row said.
Wolf, who failed to file the organization’s franchise tax report last year, insisted he has receipts for all expenses and that the Peace House’s accountant has kept diligent records which will be posted on the group’s website soon.
The delinquent tax report is also to be filed next week, Wolf said. Because it was not filed in time, Peace House lost its corporate charter – a mistake seized upon by Oliver who filed for the legal right to control the name with the Texas Comptroller’s Office. Wolf has threatened legal action, saying the Crawford Peace House still exists as an unincorporated entity and Oliver is violating the law by using the same or similar name of an existing organization.
According to the comptroller’s office, loss of the corporate charter makes the organization’s board members liable for any Peace House debts. Sheehan, who was listed in 2005 as a board member, could be now forced to deal with the organization’s liabilities.
In 2005, WND reported, Sheehan told an audience of Veterans for Peace that she was not going to pay her income taxes for 2004.
“My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004,” she said, after calling the president a “maniac” and a “lying bastard.”
“You killed my son, George Bush, and I don’t owe you a penny. … You give my son back and I’ll pay my taxes. Come after me [for back taxes] and we’ll put this war on trial.”