Predatory Nonprofit? Fight over cougars and finances

Eugene Weekly:

It all seemed so easy to businessman Steven Chapman — an avid hunter, he wanted to influence the Oregon Legislature on its hunting bills. The deer and elk herds in Oregon are too small, Chapman said, and wanted to do something about it. It takes millions of dollars in California to influence legislation, according to Chapman, but only thousands in Oregon.

In only a few years, the lobbying group he helped form, Oregon Outdoor Council (OOC), shot from obscurity to a legislative force, but now Chapman finds himself pitted against fellow hunters as he alleges misspent money and ethical wrongdoings by the lobbying-oriented OOC and its non-lobbying partner, the Oregon Outdoor Council Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Chapman says he wants to expose OOC and OOCF because he feels that he created a “haphazard” group that isn’t targeting the real source of problems for the animals he hunts.

Together with Pendleton-based media-group owner Jerod Broadfoot, Wayne Endicott of Springfield’s Bow Rack and others, Chapman formed OOC with goals that included repealing Oregon’s Measure 18, which keeps hunters from chasing cougars with dogs. OOC was also behind a push on Oregon House Bill 3437, which required that gubernatorial nominees to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission have held some form of fishing or hunting licenses for 10 consecutive years. This would leave nonhunters out of wildlife decisions.

Chapman, OOC and the long-established Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) all share similar goals — to improve the herds for hunters in Oregon — but Chapman says he is no longer 100 percent certain that targeting predators and pushing bills allowing hound hunting or bear baiting are the answer. The problem lies with lands lost to grazing and roads built for logging, he says, not cougars and wolves. That’s not a popular stance to take among conservative hunting organizations that have long blamed and targeted predators.

But Chapman’s stance on what could be reducing deer and elk herds isn’t what has him at odds with the nonprofits that he was once part of. Chapman alleges that the OOC and the OOCF unethically misspent funds, misrepresented information and are not acting “in the best interests of hunting, angling or wildlife,” and he lays out a litany of problems.

Chapman says that OOC got $25,000 from the Oregon Hunters Association to conduct a poll in support of legislative initiatives and a potential constitutional amendment, and that part of the reason OOC got the money was because Broadfoot told the group and the OHA that $500,000 in donations would be coming in from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International. That money never materialized. Chapman further alleges that Broadfoot misrepresented the results of the poll. Chapman says this damages OOC’s credibility.

Chapman, who was the OOC’s secretary-treasurer, also worries that the foundation, OOCF, jeopardized its nonprofit status when out of its $33,000 budget in 2012, it spent $16,000 on a poll relating to a prospective ballot initiative and legislative actions. The IRS limits small nonprofits to spending less than 20 percent of their budget on lobbying.

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