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October 15, 2015

Minn. Regulator Takes Aim at National Car-Donation Charity

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson issued a report Wednesday accusing a national nonprofit that solicits vehicle donations of misleading contributors, the Star Tribune writes.

Under the name "Wheels for Wishes," the Minnesota-based Car Donation Foundation solicits vehicular gifts for Make-a-Wish charities serving ill children. In a news conference, Ms. Swanson said 80 percent of revenue raised through resale or scrapping of the cars goes to the foundation or affiliated for-profit businesses. She said its advertisements are deceptive because they do not disclose that vehicles go to the foundation, not to Make-a-Wish. The head of Minnesota's Make-a-Wish chapter endorsed the inquiry.

The foundation is the largest organization of its kind in the country, collecting 22,000 vehicles and gross revenue of $108 million from 2011 to 2014, the attorney general said. It was started by William Bigley and Randy Heiligman, who also own companies that handle its fundraising and recycle or auction the cars. A spokesman for the foundation said Ms. Swanson's inquiry failed to take into account "the significant marketing, operational, and compliance costs" associated with a vehicle-donation program.