BUFFALO, NY - Two New York State lawmakers are vowing to try to untangle a mess, which has prevented the money donated by state taxpayers to aid prostate cancer research from being utilized for that purpose.
"This is, in my judgment, outrageous," said NYS Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer (R-61st District), regarding the prostate cancer research fund, one of eight causes state residents can support through a check off on their tax forms.
For reasons no one seems to be able to fully explain, the prostate cancer research fund is the only one of the eight, which hasn't disbursed any of the money collected since it was established by an act of the legislature in 2004.
To date that totals $1.8 million according to the NYS Comptroller's office.
"I think the simple solution is to introduce and pass legislation to allow the prostate cancer donation to go the same route as the other ones have, because the other ones don't have then problems of having the money held up," Ranzenhofer told WGRZ-TV
While money donated for various causes through state tax returns generally go into funds administered by state boards or agencies, the prostate cancer fund is unique, in that donations were set up go to an outside nonprofit, the New York Coalition to Cure Prostate Cancer.
Two years ago, the IRS revoked that group's federal tax-exempt status for failing to submit required returns three years in a row.
It has no website or readily available contact information online.
"If that particular not for profit agency actually lost status, what we should be doing is to find another one to take its place," said NYS Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-60th District).
The news is particularly disconcerting to Darryl Mitteldorf, chairman of the New York State Prostate Cancer Coalition.
For one thing, though the name of his cancer fighting group is closely similar to the New York Coalition to Cure Prostate Cancer, the two groups are not at all associated.
For another, he says "legitimate" groups like his view the availability of the money as a "stunning opportunity".
"There's a great deal of money that could be used to help men with prostate cancer in New York state that seems to have been designed to be diverted to an organization in California," Mitteldorf told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
"We feel that money could be best used as intended - to serve the men of New York state with improved prostate cancer research and awareness."
Mitteldorf said his group existed for four or five years before the nonprofit that was set up to handle tax checkoff donations. After the 2004 law passed, Mitteldorf said, he tried to contact both Bruno's office and the Prostate Cancer Foundation to find out how his group could get involved but never got a satisfactory answer.
"This is who the money was meant to serve," said Mitteldorf, who also is executive director of the New York City-based prostate cancer group Malecare.
According to Ranzenhofer, from the money isn't "gone"...It's just that, as of right now, there's no effective means to shake it loose.
"We just have to make that avenue a lot easier than it is right now," he said. "The people that had to know about it, so they could do something about it, didn't know. We have to correct the problem and then once it's corrected, go back and try and figure out why it happened, and to make sure it doesn't happen again."
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WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com, Democrat and Chronicle