Marla Simpson, Karin Goldman, Office of the Attorney General, New York State: Regulating Charitable Relief

April 15, 2002
Marla Simpson, Karin Goldman, Office of the Attorney General, New York State: Regulating Charitable Relief

The New York City offices of the New York State attorney general are located at 120 Broadway, due east and about five hundred yards from the former site of the World Trade Center. On the morning of September 11, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was standing at the window of his office on the twenty-fifth overlooking the World Trade Center when the first of two hijacked jetliners ploughed into the North Tower, initiating a now too-familiar chain of events that resulted in what historian David McCoullough has called "the worst day in American history."

Charities Bureau Section Chiefs Marla Simpson and Karin Goldman were not in the office that day, but in the days and weeks that followed watched closely and, in many cases, were direct participants in the rush of events that transformed 9/11 into one of the biggest philanthropic stories in many, many years. From the creation of the September 11th Fund on the afternoon of the attacks, to the unprecedented outpouring of donations to relief and recovery efforts, to the imbroglio surrounding the American Red Cross, September 11 raised the profile of the entire nonprofit sector in a way that was as surprising as it was sometimes painful.

Philanthropy News Digest sat down with Simpson and Goldman in mid-February, five months after that terrible day, to get their unique perspective on the sometimes-confusing welter of news and events that followed the attacks of September 11.

Assistant Attorney General Marla Simpson has served as a section chief for litigation and investigations in the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau since 1999. Among the matters of public record from the Bureau's recent docket, cases overseen by Simpson include the investigation and restructuring of the $3 billion Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds, the defense of the intellectual property rights of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, the investigation of Hale House, and many current Charities Bureau initiatives relating to various September 11 charities. She also coordinates the Bureau's legislative initiatives.

Prior to joining the Law Department, Ms. Simpson was general counsel and operations director for then-Manhattan Borough President Ruth W. Messinger. Before joining city government in 1990, Simpson held a number of positions in the public and private sectors, including senior counsel with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; associate at Fried, Frank, Harris and Jacobson; and staff attorney with the Food Law Project of New York City Legal Services. She has also taught at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the Columbia University School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Simpson is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University. A member of the Committee on Government Ethics of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Simpson and her husband live in Brooklyn.

Karin Kunstler Goldman is an Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau. As a staff attorney from 1982-1990, she handled investigations and litigation, coordination of state-wide and multi-state litigation, preparation and presentation of educational material for the public, and legislative drafting. Since 1990, Ms. Goldman has been the Registration Section Chief, where her responsibilities include supervision of the registry of approximately 40,000 charities in New York State, enforcement of their statutory obligations, public education projects, and legislative drafting. She is president of the National Association of State Charity Officials, serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Center for Charitable Statistics, and is a member of the Leadership Council of the Alliance for NonProfit Governance.

Goldman has a law degree from Rutgers University Law School, a BA from Connecticut College, and an MA from Columbia University. She and her husband Neal spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal, West Africa, and have two grown children.

Philanthropy News Digest: Where were the two of you on the morning of September 11?

Marla Simpson: The eleventh was primary election day in New York, and I was in Brooklyn.

PND: Karin?

Karin Goldman: I was in Washington. I heard about it on the news. I immediately realized that while my husband and children knew where I was, my mother didn't. So I called my mother and said, "I'm fine, I'm in Washington." And then I was on a bus going to my meeting, and a woman just started shrieking. She was on a cell phone with her mother, who was telling her that the Pentagon had been bombed. Washington immediately shut up tight, the buildings were evacuated, so by the time I got off the bus the streets were swarming with people. I was supposed to come back to New York that day, but of course I couldn't.

PND: Your offices on lower Broadway in Manhattan overlook the World Trade Center site. What was it like down here that day and in the days that followed?

MS: Since I was in Brooklyn, I could see what was happening both from the window where I was and on TV. So I called in here and spoke to people on the third floor, at a point when nobody had really heard or understood what was going on and encouraged them to get out of the building. But while I was still on the phone, it was clear that people were being evacuated from the building. I believe Eliot [New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer] and a couple of people with him were among the last to leave. Eliot was actually standing at his window on the twenty-fifth floor when the second plane hit and then as the first tower collapsed.

Of course, people from the building who were on the street when the first tower collapsed have harrowing stories. And at that point, we did not have a well-functioning phone tree. So the first few days after the attack were consumed with accounting for all eight hundred employees of the attorney general's office.

KG: Because I have a fax machine and computer at home, my specific assignment during those two days was to make sure that each and every person in the bureau got home and to get their contact information and e-mail addresses so that we could keep in touch. The attorney general assigned people from the investigative team to coordinate that, and there were people in Albany, who were not affected, who were assigned to update the information as it came in.

PND: How long was it before you could return to the building?

MS: The building opened the day after Wall Street opened.

PND: Four days later...?

KG: The attorneys officially came back on Friday the twenty-first, and then the whole staff came back the following Monday.

MS: I came in on Friday the fourteenth, because I had about twenty to twenty-five boxes of records from a case that I'm working. I had the original records, many of which dated from the 1920s, in my office, and I was imagining the windows blown out and that I would be held personally responsible for losing all those fragile records. So I came in and got close enough to see that the windows weren't blown out. But at that point it became clear to me that the air downtown was a problem.

PND: When did it become apparent to both of you that this was likely to be the biggest philanthropy story of the last ten years, if not longer?

KG: Pretty early on.

MS: I'd say within the first two weeks. The first week was sort of taken up by assessing what was going on in the office and how we were going to deal with it.

KG: We had our first meeting with the charities on September 26 and began working on the recipient list coordination process and the database idea at about the same time.

MS: I remember talking to the people in Oklahoma City a few days before that first meeting, and it was evident at that point that the amount of money that was being collected was substantial.

PND: Who was at the meeting on the twenty-sixth?

KG: Representatives of the major charities, the United Way, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, the Jewish Federation, FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], the [New York] Times....

PND: Was the State Emergency Management Agency there?

KG: I know we spoke, but I can't remember whether someone from the state was actually at the meeting.

MS: The city was also there.

PND: So the idea of coordinating the database effort came out of that meeting, or was it something that was brought to the meeting by one of the attendees because it was already apparent by the twenty-sixth that there was a need for coordination?

KG: We realized there was a need for coordination. I'm not sure whether the database idea came out of that meeting, but if it didn't, it was suggested soon thereafter.

MS: One of the first things we did was to try and contact people from Oklahoma City, who had had experience with a disaster of this kind. Obviously, the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995 was on a much smaller scale, but it was similar in the way it hit the public in the gut.

PND: There was disagreement between your office and the mayor's office about the database effort in those early weeks. What was the source of that disagreement?

"...Frankly, it never occurred to us that New York City authorities had a role in coordinating charities' efforts. The state charities regulations are pretty clear on that...."

MS: The disagreement became evident later, but it wasn't central to the circumstances at the beginning at all. Frankly, it never occurred to us that New York City authorities had a role in coordinating charities' efforts. The state charities regulations are pretty clear on that. And the capacity in which the city attended the first meeting was actually as a charity, as the representative of the Twin Towers Fund, which is a captive not-for-profit of the city. The city probably has dozens of captive not-for-profits; that one is called New York City Public/Private Initiatives. And like all the city's not-for-profits, it's a registrant here. We regulate them.

So I don't think in the early stages that we were much concerned with the city stepping in and trying to coordinate the effort. But one of the things thatwasevident in that early meeting was the reluctance of the various charities in attendance to share information with each other. We were prepared for that, actually. But we were not prepared for the vehemence with which they stated their positions. We understood that, basically, these people relate to each other as competitors; they don't relate to each other as members of a shared enterprise. And we felt that our role was to try to encourage them to join together under a single umbrella and make life as easy as possible for the victims of the tragedy. And, in effect, Mayor Giuliani tried to step in and say, "Well, I'm going to coordinate this."

To everybody's credit, no one really engaged. There were a couple of news stories about the disagreement, but within a news cycle or two it was being reported that Eliot and the mayor were in agreement. There really was no choice. We were trying to get the charities to understand that we weren't going to be satisfied with only having a law enforcement perspective on this. Typically, our role is to audit and investigate what charities do after their annual financials are filed and to identify problems and remedy them. So normally it would be the spring of 2003 before we would begin to see the financials for the post-9/11 period. But our goal in this situation was topreventproblems from occurring. And it took a while to get the charities to understand how we could play a role in that respect and how important it was to them that someone play that role.

KG: There were quite a number of people from the charitable sector who said, "You want us to participate in this and provide our information but you're a law enforcement agency, and we need to protect the beneficiaries of our charities and protect ourselves, so we don't want you involved." Because it was an unusual stance for this office to take, they were concerned, understandably, though we made it clear from the start that we weren't doing this for law enforcement purposes. You can imagine it was hard for them to believe that. But finally we were able to make it clear that, as far as a database for beneficiaries of the relief effort was concerned, we were not suggesting that we would have access to it.

PND: What was the primary goal of the database effort in the first few weeks after 9/11?

MS: One of the lessons from Oklahoma City was that, in a much smaller situation, it was indeed possible for the lead charities to get to a point where they really knew all the families and could coordinate with each other verbally. They actually had a very sophisticated database, but they also developed enough institutional memory after a point where they could deal with the the victim's families in human terms, even without access to the data. But that clearly wasn't going to be possible here. The number of victims, particularly in the early stages of the relief and recovery effort, when everyone was expecting the worst, was astronomical.

PND: We should remind people that city and fire department officials were anticipating more than six thousand victims.

MS: Correct. And even, frankly, if you're talking about twenty-eight hundred victims — which was the final tally — and tens of thousands more who were injured or displaced, you're really talking about too many people and too much information for a group of case workers to keep in their heads. Remember, the number-one thing people were struggling with was how to achieve equity in the distribution of relief funds. There was an awareness early on that you had people from vastly different economic circumstances. And while we made it clear to the charities that we were not going to tell them that they couldn't give more money to this family because they'd already received a quarter of a million dollars from other sources, we were saying that it wasn't in anybody's interest — donors, which is one of the constituencies we're supposed to speak for, or beneficiaries, or, frankly, the charities themselves — for there not to be a mechanism that enabled agencies to check what a family had received in the way of compensation. Even if at the beginning, when you have $500 million to give, you don't feel it's that important, at some point the money will be viewed as a scarce resource and you, the charity, will be making decisions about who does and doesn't get help. And if you decide to give another $50,000 to a family that already has a quarter of a million, you should know how and why you're doing it; it should be transparent enough so that it's obvious to everyone that a rational choice was made.

"...The public was extraordinarily generous in the aftermath of 9/11, but that doesn't mean that the public didn't care how that money was distributed...."

If you look at Eliot's early testimony, he went to Congress twice in that time period and to the state legislature a couple of times. And the theme he kept hitting was that the public expects accountability. The public was extraordinarily generous in the aftermath of 9/11, and the public was well aware that many of the victims' families were going to collect generous pension and insurance benefits. The public wanted people to have this money, but that doesn't mean that the public didn't care how it was distributed. We just assumed that stories would begin to come out about the misuse or misallocation of donated funds, about poor families that were falling between the cracks. Our notion about having a database and coordinating that effort among the various charities involved was to try to introduce some level of rationality and equity into the process.

KG: The other element of it was that we wanted to make sure that the public knew what was out there, that everyone had access to that information.

MS: Not to information about individuals, but to the amount of relief provided.

KG: So the first database we developed, with assistance from outside companies, described the organizations that were providing relief and the kinds of relief they were providing, and was searchable so that victims' families and their advocates could know what was out there. That was actually working on October 10.

PND: So far, you've mentioned equity and transparency as reasons behind your interest in seeing a coordinated database effort. Were you also concerned about efficiency and the perception, in some quarters, that the money wasn't being dispersed quickly enough?

MS: Certainly. Eliot's testimony to Congress began the first week of November, and by that point, yes, absolutely, we were concerned.

Frankly, in the first few days it seemed that things had gotten up and running pretty quickly, at least for the day-to-day kinds of emergencies. It was clear, for example, that money was being dispensed from the pier [the Family Assistance Center established by the Red Cross and other agencies at Pier 54, on Manhattan's West Side]. Initially, one of the difficulties was that many people were caught in this strange state of limbo, because there was a collective effort to hold out hope that people would be pulled out of the rubble alive. So it was two and a half to three weeks before victims' families really started focusing on what they needed to do. As a result, there was a disconnect in terms of what constitutes a financial crisis and how long it takes to do something about it. It's one thing to say, "Okay, here's $1,500" — which was the standard amount that people were getting at the pier in the first few weeks — "go pay your living expenses, buy groceries." But you had people who had $5,000, $6,000 mortgage payments to take care of. And the charities, at least initially, were not equipped to handle that.

And I don't think they would have received the amount of criticism they received had they not also underestimated the amount of money that was going to come in, as well as the intensity of the media scrutiny that the outpouring of donations inevitably was going to generate. We were trying to warn them about that, and then two things happened simultaneously. Stories began to come out about widows who claimed not to have received any assistance. Never mind that many of those stories were false — not that the widow was being untruthful, but that the reporter had shaded the truth. The victims' families had gotten something, just not what they were asking for, and they were feeling desperate. I don't want to minimize their grief, but those kinds of stories were coming out, and simultaneously the stories about the Red Cross and what it planned to do with some of the money started to come out. And with the combination of the two, it became very clear to us that efficiency was becoming a problem, and that the drumbeat for a single application process would soon follow. Single application still hasn't been achieved, but this whole notion that you've got people that are supposed to find relief by going to two hundred charities is scary.

PND: You mentioned that you had an inkling that the charitable response to this disaster would be unprecedented. What were the signs you saw that led you to believe that would be the case?

MS: One of my reactions had nothing to do with being a charities official in the New York State Attorney General's Office — it may just be because of my background as someone who grew up in the Midwest. But one of the really stunning things to me was the degree to which this was not seen as New York City's problem. It was viewed as the whole country's problem. And that feeling was palpable, and something I hadn't experienced previously in my twenty-three years as a resident of New York City. It was pretty clear from day one that it was not going to be business as usual. And in that kind of situation you are not going to get away with saying to the public, "Trust us, you'll see an annual report about what we do in June of 2003." That wasn't going to work.

KG: The public perception was, "I gave my dollar today; tomorrow it's going to be in the hands of a needy family or widow." Over the years, whenever there has been a tragedy — a flood, or an earthquake somewhere in the world — we see charities springing up here in the States and collecting money. I've been an employee of this office for twenty years and I've never seen anything that even remotely approaches 9/11. Also, I think what's happened over the years, especially over the last couple of years, is that people have been taught that they're entitled to have access to information about charities. So, at the same time we're experiencing unprecedented levels of giving, we also have a more sophisticated donating public — a public that wants and expects to know more. And when they see an immediate need, they expect aid to flow to that need immediately.

MS: There definitely were organizations, the September 11th Fund for example, that got caught up in the maelstrom, even though they were clear from the very beginning that they were not primarily seeking money for individual relief. Their goal, as it was described in their earliest solicitations, was pretty similar to what the United Way and the New York Community Trust normally do. Which is to empower organizations to work with subgroups, constituencies, communities, and people who were in some way affected by the tragedy. In the case of the September 11th Fund, our expectation, consistent with the track record of the United Way and the New York Community Trust and the solicitations we saw, was that they would be funding services, not cash. But they got caught up in the controversy because of some less-responsible commentators on the scene, and so their board ended up making the decision to distribute money to victims' families, even though that's not what they were originally set up to do.

PND: So it was clear to your office from the beginning that the stated objectives of the September 11th Fund were different than those of the Red Cross?

MS: Yes. We were very active in trying to keep the Red Cross from expanding what it was going to spend the funds on to activities that were perfectly consistent with its organizational mission but not at all consistent with the solicitations it sent out. While we were trying to go beyond our standard role and get the charities to work together, what we normally do is enforce those aspects of the law that prioritize donor intent. So solicitations matter, particularly when criticism starts to appear in the press. And when we compared the criticism to the solicitation, we saw a marked difference between what the Red Cross said to the public and what the September 11th Fund said to the public. So we were supportive of the September 11th Fund and their effort to try and explain, in the face of criticism, what they were about.

PND: Without naming names, why do you think charities got caught up in the media backlash? What could they have done differently, and what might your office have done differently, in hindsight, to prevent that backlash?

KG: Well, I think it was obvious to everybody that this was a situation where the donors were really expressing their concern about where their money was going. And I think it would have been extremely wise for all the organizations to listen to that concern. While we understand that overhead is part of the cost of doing business, even for charities, doing things other than exactly what you said you were going to do is not appropriate in this kind of situation. And I think the message on that score was loud and clear. Now, I don't know whether the Red Cross simply didn't hear it, or had poor public relations, or what....

"...I would say that within a week of September 11, it should have been evident that the amount of money being collected was beyond what a rational public, if the facts were explained to them, would have expected to be handed out to the victims' families...."

MS: It's not just a question of not listening. They should have known early on that the amount of money they were receiving was outstripping the need, even when the talk was about the possibility of six thousand victims. I would say that within a week of September 11, it should have been evident to the Red Cross, the September 11th Fund, the Salvation Army — the big ones — that the amount of money they were collecting was beyond what a rational public, if the facts were explained to them, would have expected to be handed out to the victims' families. And, mind you, this was before the federal government had begun to really consider the question of a federal relief fund, although the subject had come up. We knew, for example, that people were either going to be able to file lawsuits or there was going to be some sort of federal compensation program, if for no other reason than that had always happened in situations involving plane crashes and so on.

Frankly, if the Red Cross had gone out there and said, "Look, we already have $300 million, we'll be able to provide emergency relief in significant amounts to every family. But we think there are some other things we need to do, and here they are. Please continue to support us, and the money we get from now on will be put toward these goals" — had it been made clear, I don't think the public would have lost its enthusiasm for the organization's funding needs. That's twenty-twenty hindsight, and I'm sure that a week, ten days out, certainly here in New York, that not one employee of the Red Cross was working on a whole night's sleep, not a one. It's easy to sit here now, five months after the fact, and say, "Why didn't you do this or why didn't you do that?" But surely some of it was shock, exhaustion, and just running to keep in place.

KG: We heard from some of the smaller charities that they were overwhelmed by the amount of money they received. There are a lot of smaller charities that got a lot more money than they ever thought they'd see and needed to regroup and figure out how they were going to use it. It was overwhelming at the beginning.

MS: The decision by those charities to regroup and call a board meeting and think it through was entirely rational. But by that time a sizable segment of the public was clamoring about the pots of money that charities were sitting on. Clearly, Eliot's public statements were consistent with what we were saying in terms of encouraging rational decision-making. But maybe there were things we could have done to keep the education process going and to confront the notion that it's wrong for a charity to have money that it hasn't decided how to spend. With the media frenzy, it would have been a tough sell. If you read through our statements and testimony and press releases, you'll see that we weren't singling anybody out for criticism. But we were addressing specific situations in which people appeared to be doing something other that what they'd promised to do.

PND: Putting aside the overheated rhetoric and some sloppy reporting, do you think the media played a constructive role in the weeks and months after September 11?

KG: For the most part, I think they did. I think there was a lot of emphasis early on about disagreements between the city and the state, which from my point of view probably existed more in the press than it did in reality. But on balance I think the press was pretty good.

MS: I think it was messy, and at times it was painful — certainly for the charities, and a little bit for us, too — but I think no question that the press expedited solutions or partial solutions to many of the problems we all had to deal with. One might wish that it could have been done with fewer people being skewered and fewer negatives, which is something that always seems to come with press coverage. But given the magnitude of the tragedy and the intensity of the country's connection to it, the press absolutely did what it's supposed to do. In the case of the Red Cross, for example, a solution occurred much faster than it would have otherwise.

KG: And the focus on the Red Cross and related issues forced other charities to think about what they were doing. They didn't want to be the next story. I'm sure that prevented a lot of problems.

PND: I'd like to get back to the topic of databases. Your office was out early gathering information about charities that were created in response to 9/11. Was it ever your intention to coordinate the victims database effort?

MS: Only if no one else stepped up.

KG: That's really not information that's appropriate for this office to have. The only way we might need or use that kind of information is when we're investigating a charity that allegedly is not performing the services it's supposed to perform.

MS: In fairness to the charities, even ones like the Red Cross that were objecting early on to the non-confidential nature of the process, they always said, "Look, if you have reason to believe there's fraud going on, give us a call, send us a subpoena, and we'll give you what you need." That's always been the way we get information.

KG: But to have that information absent allegations of illegality is not appropriate for us. The concerns that were raised to us by the charities, by representatives of the victims, had to do with the issue of privacy. Should a law enforcement agency have information about what widows receive in connection with their claim? It's not part of our normal work, and I don't think we want it to be.

PND: So who is in charge of the victims database effort and where does it stand at this point?

MS: It's now the responsibility of an organization called the 9/11 United Services Group, a coalition of about a dozen charities, including the New York Red Cross and the September 11th Fund. Robert Hurst, a vice-chair at Goldman Sachs, is heading it up.

KG: The for-profit companies that are involved in working on that include IBM, McKinsey and Company, Qwest, Silverstream Software, and KPMG.

PND: And they're making good progress?

"...While it's frustrating for victims that they still have to go to multiple places and apply under multiple criteria, what people need to bear in mind is that this relief effort will go on for years...."

MS: Yes, I think so. Again, many of the people who were close to the situation might wish that certain aspects of it were done more quickly. But it's a voluntary effort, and they've made more progress than the circumstances, and the magnitude of the tragedy, would have suggested. They're trying to bring organizations together that don't have a history of operating in lockstep, and they're trying to get them to at least apply some common standards. While it's frustrating for victims that they still have to go to multiple places and apply under multiple criteria, what people need to bear in mind is that this relief effort, particularly for the young families involved, will go on for years. There will be situations that nobody would have imagined in a given family that will cause them to come back for additional assistance. It's not too late is my point. People keep saying, "Well haven't all the victims been helped yet." And the answer is no. There are actually victims who haven't, on an economic-need basis, been brought into the system yet. People are still emerging who suddenly realize that they're going to need to find out what's available to help them with such-and-such a problem. And that will continue. According to everything we've heard from the folks in Oklahoma City, there will be rescue workers who will first seek assistance four, five years out.

PND: Whose responsibility is it to ensure the confidentiality of the information in the victims database?

MS: That United Services Group was formed for that purpose. In effect, that's their mission. Confidentiality is important, particularly if the promise of confidentiality is the only reason why someone decides to seek help — for example, an undocumented worker who is reluctant to get involved with the process even though his family desperately needs aid. I had a discussion yesterday with some advocates who were representing economically injured victims during which I tried to suggest that this is charitable relief. It is, by definition, discretionary aid. It's not a government benefit or an entitlement. It's a private, charitable donation to meet a family's needs. So you need to balance people's right to complete confidentiality with the fact that this is a voluntary system. They voluntarily have sought aid — aid given by donors with the expectation of some level of accountability. In other words, confidentiality is important, but there are other things that come into the equation.

PND: Does your office have a position on the federal government's Victims' Compensation Fund as it currently stands?

KG: We did an extensive comment on it.

MS: But those comments are a coordinated effort that goes beyond the activities of the charities bureau.

PND: And Attorney General Spitzer, in his testimony to Congress, indicated that there were some elements of the Fund that were problematic?

MS: We've actually done three rounds of written comments, and it's really complicated.

KG: Some of the definitional issues — for example, what constitutes a family — have yet to be resolved.

MS: Right. I mean, we basically took the position that the rules needed to be made more flexible as to definitions of injury, the inclusion of non-traditional families, and the methods of proving one's eligibility.

PND: Has 9/11 changed the way your office approaches the regulation of charities in New York State?

KG: We still have the same concerns that we had before September 11. We've spent a lot of time focusing on issues that we didn't focus on before that are non-regulatory. And some of the positive fallout from this involves activities of the IRS. They're expediting their approval of 9/11 charities as tax-exempt organizations, for example, and they're providing information about new organizations in New York State on a regular basis, making it a bit easier for us to carry out some of our responsibilities. So, what we do hasn't changed, but the way we do it perhaps has changed a bit.

I think another positive bit of fallout is that there is more interest within Congress in issues that pertain to charities, and more interest in the statutes that we've been interested in over the years. On the state level, there's interest with regard to regulation of charities, to improving the statutory framework. That hasn't changed anything yet, but I think there will be some legislation in the near future that will address some of the issues we've been concerned about for years.

MS: I think it's a little early for us to have actually changed what we can do from a law-enforcement standpoint, but the focus and the possibility of new legislation may, over time, change. My section is focused on litigation and investigation, and for me the biggest change is the awareness and interest of the public in charitable organizations. Our investigations and law-enforcement initiatives have always come from a range of sources. One major source is public complaints. Another major source is the press. Still another is the team of accountants here who randomly look at the annual filings of charities registered in the state and find anomalies. And I think there's no question that the public's awareness of charity issues has skyrocketed, particularly on the issue of truth in solicitations. I would say that in the wake of 9/11, there's been a subtle shift in that we're getting more information and more leads, not all of which are 9/11-related. Again, it's a little early to tell, but at this point, looking at things that we're considering for investigation, I would say that we have more solicitation cases than we have had — many of them, as I say, not related to 9/11 at all. If anything, I think the conclusion to Eliot's testimony says it best: it's still our belief that, given the volume of charitable activity that followed in the wake of September 11, what's really noteworthy is the low level of solicitation fraud that we've seen.

PND: Well, we'll have to leave it there. I want to thank both of you for your time and your hard work in what I'm sure must have been difficult circumstances. Thanks again, Marla and Karin.

KG and MS: Thank you.

Philanthropy News Digest interviewed Marla Simpson and Karin Goldman at their offices on lower Broadway in February. For more information on the Newsmakers series, contact Mitch Nauffts at