Letters from Grassley to Six Megachurches
In each of the letters to the six churches, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA) asks for audited financial statements, names of affiliated churches and integrated auxiliaries, board members' names and addresses, and the names and addresses of individuals who serve on compensation committees. He also asks about executive compensation, housing allowances, loans and personal use of assets such as jets, employees and vehicles.
Much of the initial information that led to Grassley's inquiry came from media coverage, according to his spokeswoman.
Grassley also asks questions specifically tailored to each ministry. From private planes to Bentleys, Grassley wants the church executives to give him answers on their lavish lifestyles.
FOR PROFIT: Information about the formation of a for-profit entity. Grassley wants to know who authorized the use of church assets — cash and a mineral deed — to be given to the company and the value of assets used to form it. He also wants to know if the Copelands have any interest in the company.
JET: Information about a ministry jet — reportedly a $20 million Cessna — used for layovers in Maui, the Fiji Islands and Honolulu as well as for trips to Colorado, Louisiana and Texas. He was reportedly criticized for using a Cessna for personal vacations with friends.
PROJECTS: An explanation of what happened to donations to build "The Revival Capital of the World," which was to include a headquarters, resort hotel, media center and a retirement community.
College Park, Georgia
VEHICLES: Information on all vehicles purchased, leased or maintained by the Creflos' ministries. It has been reported that the ministry purchased two Rolls Royces for the Dollars.
COMPENSATION: Detailed list of compensation — including cash and non-cash gifts, housing allowances, loans, and personal use of other assets such as jets, employees and facilities — paid to the Dollars by the church, ministry and any other tax-exempt entities.
JET: Detailed information on aircraft owned or leased by the church or ministry, including amounts paid, maintenance expenses and flight records.
HOMES: Detailed list of total monthly expenses for residences of the Dollars, including residences in Georgia and New York.
HOMES: Explanation of expenses paid toward the purchase and furnishing of a residence in California and a detailed explanation of monthly expenses to maintain it.
CREDIT CARDS: Credit card statements for all credit cards used by Hinn and family members and an explanation of expenses paid by the church or ministry. Grassley wants a detailed explanation of all expense account items for Hinn including clothing, jewelry and personal grooming.
AIRCRAFT: Detailed information about aircraft owned by the ministry or church and copies of flight records. Grassley also wants a history of all of Hinn's layover trips.
COMPENSATION: In 2005, a church spokesman stated that Long no longer received a salary but instead gets a "love offering." Grassley wants to know the total amount of love offerings Long received as well as the amount of his last salary payment.
HOME: Grassley is seeking information about a home in Atlanta purchased on behalf of a nonprofit operated by Long, Bishop Eddie Long Ministries (BELM). In October 2002, the charity ceased operations, and in December 2003, Long signed papers relinquishing the charity's interest in the home. The charity reportedly compensated Long with a $1.4 million six-bedroom, nine-bath home on 20 acres as well as with the use of a Bentley automobile.
LAND: Information about how the proceeds of $1.4 million that BELM earned from the sale of 13.7 acres, donated to it from another of Long's ministries. Grassley also wants to know whether any of the funds were used for the personal benefit of Eddie Long and what happened to the funds when the charity dissolved.
DONATIONS: Grassley is seeking information on who donated to BELM more than $3.5 million over two years and whether any of the donations personally benefited Long.
GIFTS AND JEWELRY: Explanation of how the Meyers handle personal monetary gifts and jewelry from donors. Grassley is seeking valuation procedures for the jewelry and whether the Meyers included the gifts in income.
FURNITURE: Verification of cost (and explanation of tax-exempt purposes) of several pieces of furniture that were purchased for the ministry headquarters. The pieces include a $30,000 table and a $30,000 conference table. Grassley also wanted to know about a $23,000 commode with marble top. (In her Nov. 29 response to Grassley, Meyer notes that the commode is a chest of drawers. Meyer writes that it was part of a large lot of items totaling $262,000 that were needed to furnish the ministry's 150,000 square foot headquarters purchased in 2001. She said the commode's price tag was an "errant value" assigned by the selling agent and apologized for "not paying close attention to specific 'assigned values' placed on the pieces.")
CREDIT CARDS: Detailed explanation of credit card expenses paid on behalf of the Whites, including but not limited to clothing expenses and cosmetic surgery
RESIDENCES: Detailed list of expenses paid toward the purchase or maintenance of residences used by the Whites in San Antonio, Texas, Malibu, Calif., and New York City.
GIFTS: Copy of the bill of sale and method of payment for a Bentley convertible purchased for televangelist T.D. Jakes.
LOAN: In 1995, the Whites borrowed $170,000 from a longtime church member. It was reported that as of May 2007, the member had only been repaid $2,000. Not long after the news report, the loan was repaid, and Grassley wanted to know who paid it.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.