Archive for November, 2015

CCHD’s $trange Affection for Coalition LA

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development national collection is scheduled for this Sunday, November 22. In earlier posts we have shown CCHD’s failure to observe basic standards of stewardship and demonstrated some of its grantees’ blatant disregard of Gospel principles.

In many ways the decade-long, strange-to-the-point-of-bizarre support and endorsement of Coalition LA by CCHD and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with their applicant vetting process and grant oversight.

What They Say the Grants Were For

From 2002- 2011 Coalition LA received national and local ‘Community Development’, ‘Community Organizing’, and ‘Neighborhood Leadership’ grants designated to be used for ‘housing’, ‘neighborhood improvement’, and ‘economic justice’. Coalition LA, however, never had more than 1 or 2 paid staff and some volunteers. It is extraordinary to the point of absurd to believe these few had the skills and expertise to be successful in all these diverse areas. Either the categories are meaningless or the work was not being done.

Coalition LA Was Never Eligible

In 1997 and 1999, Coalition LA ran candidates (members of its own board) for public office. Such activity is prohibited to 501(c)3 non-profit organizations and is a violation of CCHD standards. Details of these efforts were published in the Los Angeles Times before the first CCHD grants were approved by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (ADLA).

In 2000, a ‘Voter Guide’ bearing the name ‘Coalition L.A.’ urged opposition to Proposition 22, the California Defense of Marriage initiative. In its document, For The Record– The Truth about CCHD Funding, CCHD claims the Archdiocese of Los Angeles pre-approved all Coalition LA’s published voter guides.

In 2001, Coalition LA was a supporter of AB 25, a bill passed by California that gave domestic partners all of the rights and responsibilities afforded married spouses under state law. In 2003, Coalition LA supported AB 205 that provided domestic partners the same status accorded married spouses with respect to state income tax filings and community property rights.

Both these bills were opposed by the California Catholic Conference (of Bishops) because they were part of the ongoing organized effort to gain state recognition for ‘same-sex marriage’. As early as 2003, opposition to the Catholic position on a fundamental issue disqualified Coalition LA from receiving CCHD grants.

Coalition LA’s Dubious Leadership

Even minimal background checks of Coalition LA’s two senior leaders would and should have raised red flags about the suitability of Coalition LA for CCHD grants.


After many years of relative stability, starting in 2007 there was a nearly complete turnover of the Coalition LA Board of Directors. Within a couple years the Board was dominated by active members of the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional), an El Salvadoran political party. (After the Salvadoran civil war, five left-wing guerilla organizations, including the Communist Party, formed the FMLN. Farabundo Martí was one of the early leaders of the Salvadoran Community Party.)

The new Executive Director of Coalition LA, Mario Cuéllar, was known as early as 1997 as the Los Angeles representative of the FMLN. In November 2007, Mario Cuéllar also worked as the press contact for CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) a support organization for the FMLN. And he was leading other organizations at the same time: “Mario Cuéllar, miembro de Coalition L.A. y coordinador del Comite de Base Feliciano Ama” (one of the local committees of the FMLN in Los Angeles. Feliciano Ama was a leader of a peasant uprising in El Salvador). Mario Cuéllar was also the director of and active in an organization named ‘Casa El Salvador”.

In April 2008, while employed by Coalition LA, Mario Cuéllar organized boycotts of local (Los Angeles) merchants who supported opponents of the FMLN in El Salvador’s election. In July 2009, in relation to a police involved shooting incident, Mario Cuéllar wrote that the Los Angeles Police Department were “child murderers” and a “body of murderers”.

For at least the years 2008 – 2010, and while under CCHD grants, Coalition LA’s designated ‘Community Organizer’ was Bilal Mafundi Ali, a long-time member of the Black Panthers. Concurrent with his work for Coalition LA, Bilal Ali participated in activities related to the Black Panther Party and its goals.

On his Facebook page, Bilal Ali displays a photo of Malcolm X holding an automatic weapon. He quotes Malcolm X, “It doesn’t mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence.” Bilal Ali states he is a founding member of MXGRM (Malcolm X Grassroots Movement) and his primary “interest” is “Revolutionary Nationalism”.

From the 1990’s through at least the year 2006, Bilal Ali was a principal of the Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA), which was a derivative organization of the Black Panther Party. He is also associated with the anti-police organizations ‘Copwatch LA’ and the ‘October 22 Coalition’.

While working for Coalition LA, Bilal Ali simultaneously worked for or represented other activist organizations, including the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN, aka CANGRESS). LA CAN was another long-time favorite of both the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and national CCHD, but in late 2009 or early 2010, LA CAN’s CCHD grants were cancelled for activities contrary to Catholic teaching.


In May 2010, CCHD grantees POWER, LA CAN, and Coalition LA organized a renter’s protest that disrupted proceedings of the Los Angeles City Council. Published reports identify Bilal Ali as a demonstrator who worked for both LA CAN and Coalition LA.

In December 2008, Bilal Ali spoke at the Black Panther Party’s ‘Los Angeles Anarchist Bookfair.’ On video he says, “All power to the people! All power to all the people! All black power for black people! All red power for red people! All yellow power for yellow people! All brown power for brown people! All white pow … well white people got enough power.

In February 2009, Bilal Ali, representing Coalition LA, was a speaker at a ‘Fight Back – Organize and Fight Back in Your Community’ event sponsored by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). The PSL is a prominent player in anti-police demonstrations. In August 2010, Bilal Ali of the ‘Nat Turner Guerrilla Cadre’ was promoting the ‘National and International Night Out Pig Watch’, part of the anti-police movement.

In August and September 2010, Bilal Ali publicly represented himself as from the L.A. Human Right to Housing Collective. He is quoted saying, “it is the role of the LAPD to oppress workers in Los Angeles.”

In September, 2010, Bilal Ali wrote “I’m talking about a movement to combat police state terrorism. A Movement that mobilizes the critical mass that is needed to combat Pig terrorism in our communities. A Movement that schools our people about the Real Nature and Role of the Pigs in a capitalist society.” In October of that year he wrote of the police, “These MoFo’s won’t go quietly into the night y’all.

Coalition LA was operating under CCHD grants during the years Bilal Ali was their designated ‘Community Organizer’.

Use of Facilities

During the time Coalition LA was receiving CCHD grants, Cuellar and Ali extended the use of its telephone and Wilshire Boulevard office facilities:

  • for meetings of the FMLN,
  • to celebrate dismissal of charges against Black Panthers accused of murdering a policeman,
  • for the FTPN, “a group formed after the May 1st police riot in MacArthur Park”,
  • for a meeting of the May 19th Movement for the purpose of running candidates for office,
  • for organizing an anti-police demonstration for the ‘People’s Network in Defense of Human Rights’.

A variety of emails and blog posts reveal that many Marxist, radical, and anti-police activists and organizations frequently held meetings at the offices of Coalition LA. 

Defended by CCHD and ADLA

In 2009, Reform CCHD Now documented the membership of Coalition LA, and of several other CCHD grantees, in multiple coalitions that held positions contrary to Catholic teaching. CCHD came to the defense of their grantees by arguing (quite seriously) that none of these organizations knew the positions of the coalitions to which they had lent their names and support.

In response to documented problems with grantees, the USCCB conducted a ‘Review and Renewal’ in order to deflect criticism of CCHD. In that review, CCHD found no problem with Coalition LA and defended its grants. Even after receiving warnings about Coalition LA, CCHD and the ADLA doubled down and increased its grant to $45,000 the following year.


Despite the clean bill of health written by CCHD and the Archdiocese, in early 2011 Coalition LA virtually disappeared. Its website was no longer updated. Its telephone was soon disconnected. Early that year its business ‘location’ and mailing address changed from a suite on Wilshire Boulevard to the ‘Community Center’ of the Clinica Oscar Romero on Alvarado St. in Los Angeles. The site is not an office building but merely a public meeting room. The name ‘Coalition LA’ did not appear on the building exterior or even on a mailbox.

The Money and the IRS

Coalition LA was the beneficiary of local CCHD grants from the ADLA in the years 2002 and 2003 and from 2004 to mid-2011 it received national grants. In all, Coalition LA was given $225,000 of parishioners’ contributions. CCHD grants represented on average about one-sixth of Coalition LA’s total annual revenue.

At its fiscal year ending June 2008, Coalition LA showed annual expenses of $185,000, but it also held $90,000 in cash. For each of the prior 3 years it had banked approximately $30,000 of donations received. [image]



The last 990 tax return ever filed by Coalition LA

Even non-profit organizations are required to file annual returns with the Internal Revenue Service, and their filings are public records. The last 990 return Coalition LA ever filed was for fiscal year 2007-2008. At the time it was approved for and received a CCHD grant for the 2010-2011 period, Coalition LA’s 2008-2009 IRS tax return was already overdue.

Even though it had substantial revenue from donations, records indicate Coalition LA never filed returns with the IRS for the 2008-2009, 2009-2010, or 2010-2011 tax periods. Nonetheless, during those same years, CCHD awarded Coalition LA $85,000, while other charitable foundations provided it with at least $120,000 in grants. No publicly available record shows Coalition LA ever reported this $205,000 to the IRS.

In November 2011, the Internal Revenue Service revoked Coalition LA’s non-profit status for failure to file the required tax returns. In 2013 the California Secretary of State suspended Coalition LA’s corporate status for failure to file the required report for the prior 3 years. 

The Structural Poverty of the CCHD

Whatever the rationale or excuse, in the case of Coalition LA, CCHD was obstinately negligent in its responsibility as stewards of parishioners’ contributions.

Even after being alerted to problems with Coalition LA,

  • CCHD failed to sufficiently research and vet Coalition LA senior people, those who spent the grant money to carry out the supposed purpose;
  • CCHD failed to follow Coalition LA’s activities, even those reported in readily available from public media;
  • CCHD failed to confirm if Coalition LA complied with the legal requirements for filings with government agencies, including financial filings.

Instead, upon hearing questions or criticisms, CCHD often dismissively responds everything is fine.

No matter how often CCHD has performed a ‘review’ or ‘renewal’ of itself, it has always failed to realize that no agreement, no protocol, no standard, and no assessment can ever ensure the integrity of grant recipients. This stubborn fact explains the past and present embarrassments of the CCHD, and assures these will continue into the future.

The ideology and goals of activist organizations are the ideology and goals of the people who run them. You can’t pay people to act with a Catholic mind and a Catholic heart.


When promoting this weekend’s CCHD collection, can your Bishop or Pastor explain CCHD’s blindness to the problems manifest over a decade with Coalition LA?

Or can they answer even this question, What happened to the money?