Part One can be found here
Part Two can be found here
Disclaimer - To my knowledge, no person mentioned in this article has committed a crime, pleaded guilty to or been convicted of any crime associated with events listed here.
So far in this process, I've allowed Ted Sampley to defend himself in his own words. They might not have been fresh words, but he has provided ample material on his various sites to promote himself and dispute most claims. If the story has already been told, why even bother writing about Ted Sampley? I have struggled with this myself.
If Ted Sampley was simply a sloppy businessman who failed to file proper papers and failed to file or pay his taxes, I wouldn't bother with him. He isn't just another businessman, though. Ted Sampley has put himself out in the community as the leader of a charitable organization. He runs a 501c3 and solicits money from the public and receives favorable tax treatment from the state and from the IRS. He owes it to the town of Kinston and to the taxpayers of this state to be a good steward of the money with which he's been entrusted.
I write to bring attention to someone who, in my opinion, does not deserve another ounce of public trust. I write in the hopes that donors will watch their pocketbooks closely and look into any charity Ted Sampley is involved with. I write in the hopes that various authorities will take notice of the documents improperly filed, filed late or not filed at all in the course of Sampley's business dealings - to simply provide a guarantee that money is being used for the charitable purpose for which it was intended. I write because the veterans in my family deserve far better than the likes of Ted Sampley out in the world using his veteran status as a badge of honor to gain public sympathy and public trust when he does very little to earn it. At the same time he uses his veteran status as a shield to deflect criticism. Respecting a man or woman's veteran status doesn't mean you give them a free pass for all their transgressions. So, I write.
Please follow below the fold...
Ted Sampley ramped up the rhetoric with the web site DefeatMcCain.com, to keep John McCain away from the GOP's presidential nomination in 2000. He resurrected his accusations that McCain was a KGB spy and "The Manchurian Candidate". McCain obviously took notice. Sampley might be a bit player in the overall picture, but the viciousness of his attacks is hard to ignore. From John McCain's book, Worth Fighting For:
Ted Sampley, a war veteran and veteran POW-MIA activist, who favored fatigues and feather earrings as his costume of choice, was quite a character. I took him for a charlatan within five minutes of meeting him. And nothing he has done since has caused me to change that opinion.
Sampley had recently married the daughter of an MIA, who sensibly divorced him a few years later, but his MIA in-law status gave him claim to membership privileges in the associations of POW-MIA families, which privileges he would use to make as much of a nuisance of himself at their conventions as he did during our hearings.
........... I realized that although he was detestable for his influence on families who wanted to grasp at anything, even his palpable nonsense, to nurture their hopes for recovering their loved ones, he was really little more than a buffoon, and that my self-respect wasn't threatened by his antics."
It's difficult to imagine what Sampley would have done if McCain had won the GOP nomination and had run for President against Al Gore. It's hard to imagine a man like Sampley, who will whip out his veteran status to save his own hide and illicit sympathy, attacking another veteran with the gusto and joy he seems to get from attacking John McCain and John Kerry. One thing is certain, these attacks are the only thing keeping Sampley in the larger public eye.
With his mission of disrupting the nominating process complete and Bush on the ticket, Sampley returned to his businesses in Kinston.
(1993 - Present)
During this time The Last Firebase continued to operate the vigil site in Washington, DC, but Sampley started a couple of new ventures that he included in the mission of the 501c3. The first was a walk of honor, which has been turned over to another organization. The second was the building of a life-size replica of a civil war ironclad war ship. This project started in 2002, which is when Sampley apparently gave birth to the Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company.
Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company
Sampley calls the Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company a satellite of The Last Firebase Veteran's Archives on the CSS Neuse II web site. He has collected contributions to complete the building of the replica of the C.S.S. Neuse II under the name of Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company. In exchange for a donation Sampley states on the web site he will send a "stock certificate" as a donation receipt. A source has provided me with a copy of not only the certificate, but the letter that accompanied the certificate.
There are several potential problems with this arrangement. First, according to the NC Secretary of State's online database, the Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company is not a licensed charity in the state of North Carolina nor is it an incorporated business in the state and according to the Lenoir County Register of Deeds online database, it is not an assumed name registered to Ted Sampley. I was unable to find it listed anywhere after an exhaustive search of online records. Of course, Lenoir County, the state of North Carolina and the IRS could all have inadequate listings.
The second potential problem involves the issuing of "stock certificates". The selling of stock is a heavily and closely regulated transaction. There is a legal procedure that a company goes through in order to have their stock bought and sold by the public. Calling these receipts "stock certificates" could mislead some donors into believing they are investors and have some ownership in the project. In Sampley's defense, he clearly calls it a receipt for a donation. I think most reasonable people would undertstand his intent.
The third potential problem is in the use of Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company as a satellite for the collection of contributions. As far as I can tell, the company has not been set up as a subsidiary of The Last Firebase. The last 990s filed for 2003 appear to provide the evidence that this relationship may not legally or formally exist between the two companies. There are two questions asked on the form that might help to clarify this.
Question #1: Is this a group return for affiliates? Sampley checks the "no" box.
Question #2: Is this a separate return filed by an organization covered by a group ruling? Once again, Sampley has checked the "no" box.
In other words,if I am reading this right, The Last Firebase Veterans Archive is not a parent company to a group, nor is it part of a group. To the best of my knowledge, if Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company was a "satellite" of Last Firebase or part of a group, one of these two questions should be checked "yes".
The final problem is found in the letter that accompanied the "stock certificate" that was sent to the donor. The donor is instructed to reference The Last Firebase Veterans Archive for their tax records instead of Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company, the company to which the check was made payable. I'm not a lawyer, tax agent or anyone else with any special knowledge, but this certainly looks a little fishy to me. When you give money in one name, but are instructed to list another name as the official charity for your tax records, it just looks evasive. It leaves me wondering if this is legal and if all those people who made contributions were able to legally deduct those contributions.
I could be completely and totally off-base here. I'm not accusing Sampley of anything, but this arrangement doesn't pass muster in my opinion. Understand, that the only reason I would even inquire is that this is a charitable organization and Sampley has a responsibility to the public, not the other way around.
Queen Street Press
Queen Street Press is the name of a printing business located at 413 Queen Street in Kinston where Sampley originally printed the paper copies of the U.S. Veteran Dispatch and where he now handles the screen printing for the tee shirts sold through his various ventures. A search of online data did not turn up any record that this business is either incorporated in the state or listed as an assumed business name with Lenoir County.
American Patriot On-line.Com, Inc.
The American Patriot Online is a Yahoo Store site that sells the trinkets and tee shirts that now support the U.S. Veteran Dispatch. The introduction to the site follows:
Vets Supporting Vets - The U.S. Veteran Dispatch is an online veteran's newspaper dedicated to furnishing the truth to our readers about the human element created as a result of service in the military and the tragic ordeal of war. We are members and supporters of the National Alliance Of POW/MIA Families. To order our items, click the buttons on the left.
American Patriot Online was incorporated in the state of North Carolina in January 2006 and is a for-profit business. Ted Sampley is listed as the incorporator.
Broken Eagle Eatery, LLC/Stringer's Tavern
The Broken Eagle Eatery LLC was formed in February of 2003, however the restaurant had been in business at least a year before its incorporation as it is mentioned in various newspaper articles in The Kinston Free Press in 2002. There is no registration of an assumed name with Lenoir County. Jan Barwick was part owner of The Broken Eagle with Ted Sampley. The restaurant has since changed hands. The current owner rents the property from Sampley.
Back on the Campaign Trail
As the 2004 presidential election took shape, Sampley prepared for all-out war against John Kerry. He designed several web sites to help spread the viscious messages coming from the swiftboat veteran's group. Sampley told the Boston Globe that he was prepared to attack Kerry if he won the South Carolina primary.
"If Kerry wins the South Carolina primary on Tuesday, we'll be coming after him," said Sampley, a POW advocate who is organizing opponents to Kerry through a new website, Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, and who was rebuked by Kerry a decade ago for alleging that Senator John McCain was brainwashed by Communists while a prisoner in Hanoi.
The following is a listing of as many of the web sites as we could uncover.
Aside from the web sites, Sampley continued to heckle and disrupt events. He doctored photographs and spread them through right-wing radio(yes, even Rush Limbaugh described the pictures on his radio show), television and publications. One of the best articles that mentions Sampley's efforts against Kerry gives us this quote. It's by Joe Conason at Salon. Give it a read.
The Web site for Ted Sampley's Vietnam Veterans Against Kerry offers a pungent example of the right's rhetorical style: The Viet Cong's National Liberation Front flag is the background to a shot of a young, fatigue-clad Kerry. That picture is pure computer magic -- in other words, a fake.
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell slammed Sampley on Scarborough Country in a 2004 interveiw. Media Matters has the video. For those of us who have not had the pleasure of meeting Sampley, it won't improve your opinion of him.
Senator John McCain was so incensed by Sampley's antics that he released a stinging press release.
"I strongly caution reporters who may be contacted by or are interested in Mr. Ted Sampley and the various organizations he claims to represent, and his opinions on the subject of Senator Kerry, or any subject for that matter, to investigate thoroughly Mr. Sampley's background and history of spreading outrageous slander and other disreputable behavior before inadvertently lending him or his allegations any credibility."
"I am well familiar with Mr. Sampley, and I know him to be one of the most despicable people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. I consider him a fraud who preys on the hopes of family members of missing servicemen for his own profit. He is dishonorable, an enemy of the truth, and despite his claims, he does not speak for or represent the views of all but a few veterans. The many veterans I know would think it a disgrace to be considered a comrade or supporter of Ted Sampley."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Shortly after announcing that he would lead a group in building a replica of the C.S.S. Neuse in 2002, Sampley started looking around for some land. He had purchased land in the past at extremely low prices, so he was probably looking for a deal. He cloaked the project as a tourist attraction and made his pitch to the city. The Kinston Free Press has covered the progress of this project closely. From one of its first articles:
A growing volunteer effort to bring a full-sized replica of the CSS Ram Neuse has drifted its eyes over to a new site for the ironclad.
The Pride of Kinston, a downtown redevelopment group, is floating the idea of leasing a piece of land on the southwest corner of Gordon and Herritage streets to the shipbuilders - who have yet to land a solid funding source for the entire project.
"It's going to get a life of its own," said Ted Sampley, a local businessman and historian who's spearheading the effort.
"If for nothing else, people will just want to say they helped build an ironclad," he said.
The project is sailing under the guise of the Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Co., an infant arm of the nonprofit Last Firebase Archive Project.
Ultimately, the Pride of Kinston entered into a lease agreement on a parcel of land. Sampley paid $1 a year for the lease.
Under the terms of the lease, Sampley's organization, the Last Firebase Veteran's Archive Project, will give Pride $1,000 to clean up the lot if the project has to be suspended for any reason before its completion. Sampley also has agreed to use the lot only for the boat construction and not for anything unlawful, such as taverns and tattoo parlors.
The lease is for two years with rent at $1 per year. Sampley's group has the option to renew the lease after two years.
Sampley himself posted the particulars of the lease on the Kinston Free Press message boards. They can be found at this link. You may need to scroll a bit.
Obviously, Kinston is a town in need of revitalization and the Pride of Kinston and citizens who had donated thousands of dollars hoped that Ted Sampley would complete this project and bring tourist dollars to Kinston.
Despite the sales from The Last Firebase vigil stand and community fundraising, the project was plagued with a lack of funds.
A determined group of Civil War enthusiasts hopes that the red tape they've been caught in the past several months gives way to lots of green.
"I was reluctant to do any serious fund raising [in case] we couldn't get the permit," said Ted Sampley, a local historian and chairman of the shipwright company. "We delayed fund raising until that happened."
The ins and outs, ups and downs of the Neuse II project and its dealings with the Pride of Kinston are extensive and could fill a book. Almost four years after the start of the project, the ship is still not complete and Pride is negotiating with Sampley over whether they will follow through with original plans to sell the land to Sampley for $1 at the end of the second 2-year lease. With all of the information that is readily available about Sampley and his business practices I have to wonder if it was advisable for Pride to ever do business with Sampley to begin with. I also wonder if any of Sampley's maneuverings have violated the terms of his lease.
For a list of articles about Ted Sampley, his businesses and the development/building of the Neuse II Ironclad project, please go here. The Kinston Free Press has a long list of articles that document the progress of this project.
An honest look at the past 20 years gives reasons to both loathe and admire, respect and despise Ted Sampley. He has had moments of vision and at times has displayed good intentions. I don't doubt that he has a sympathetic connection with many veterans, but I also don't doubt that he would capitalize on that connection in a heartbeat. If the time I put into researching and writing this piece saves one person from donating to a charity before investigating it with the Secretary of State's office or the IRS to make sure it is doing what it claims to be doing, then my time will have been worth it.
Do I think that Ted Sampley has betrayed the public trust? My personal opinion is that he has, however, if he has not, the lack of proper structure to his charitable organizations and his businesses made it more likely to happen and to go undetected. When it all boils down to it, what I think doesn't matter. While it may seem I've passed judgment on some of his actions, it is not my place to sit in final judgment of Ted Sampley, the man.
In the end, Ted Sampley will be just like the rest of us. He can only hope that in that final second before the bright light fades that the good outweighs the bad, that his heart is as light as a feather and that his soul is worthy of saving.
Gregflynn helped tremendously on the research for this piece and has provided invaluable technical guidance.
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