FOLLOW THE MONEY
It has not been a good few weeks for the BPPA. Last month, activists began a campaign to expose the bigoted vitriol published bimonthly in the union's newsletter, the Pax Centurion. Among other offensive comments, Pax contributors have called governor Deval Patrick a "racial huckster," claimed that Muslims "want to kill you," and labeled the victims of violent crime "maggots" and "scumbags." (See "Shit Boston Cops Say," July 6, 2012.)
The Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMLEO), which includes several hundred BPPA members, has long been critical of the newsletter's tone and content. Last month, however, they were joined by the ad-hoc Occupy-related group Clean Up BPPA. Since then, the ruckus they raised has convinced nine advertisers to discontinue their support of the Pax, including Houghton Mifflin, Stop & Shop, Harpoon Brewery, and LoJack.
"We've been pretty persistent," says Allison Nevitt, a member of Clean Up BPPA, which was the first to unearth Gargano's fraud convictions. "Our continuing goal is to keep getting the word out, so that people can look at whatever's going on inside [the police union] that would allow this newspaper to happen."
Of the companies who severed ties to the Pax, many said that they had primarily intended to contribute to the BPPA's college scholarship fund, not just to advertise in the newsletter. "Our ad in Pax Centurion was intended 2 support the fund, not offensive content," tweeted a representative of LoJack.
After news broke of the Pax's incendiary content, the BPPA swiftly reacted by locking down the newsletter's online archives. A few days later, an unsigned letter went up on the BPPA Web site, angrily defending the Pax editors and extolling the BPPA's own philanthropy. "Most, and in recent years, all of the net revenues derived from advertising in the Pax have funded scholarships for the children of our members," the letter claimed.
But the union's own records don't back that assertion. In fact, they show that very little of the newsletter's revenue goes toward such educational opportunities. From 2009 to 2010, for example, the BPPA gave away only $44,000 in scholarships ($1000 each to 44 recipients) despite taking in $336,494 in advertising revenue. The year before, they raised more than $400,000 in ad revenue and reported no scholarship expenditures at all.
So where was all that money going? Back to Commonwealth Productions, the filings indicate. In the fiscal year 2009-2010, when the union raised $336,494, the BPPA's records list an "advertising sales" expense of $259,743 paid to "Commonwealth Production" [sic] at 264 Raynor Ave. in Whitman — the address given for David Gargano in his 2009 and 2011 arrest records.
In fiscal year 2008-2009, when the BPPA raised $434,133, Commonwealth Productions pocketed $384,400.
So only a fraction of the money the BPPA raised — evidently by telling companies that they would be supporting a scholarship fund — was actually spent on scholarships.