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thedrifter
06-13-07, 06:56 PM
Military support groups battle over names
By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jun 13, 2007 15:50:39 EDT

Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit charity for military families, has filed a complaint with the Illinois inspector general’s office alleging violations of ethics and trademark law by Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.

The complaint, filed June 8, alleges that Quinn’s use of the national organization’s trademark name has caused confusion in military families nationwide who have sought help in the wrong place.

Quinn uses the name Operation Home Front to describe the Illinois taxpayer-funded “Illinois Military Relief Fund.” The two groups also share similar Web addresses: the Illinois site is www.operationhomefront.org/; the national charity is www.operationhomefront.net/.

“Operation Homefront has letters from military families who were confused by this situation and applied to the wrong organization. Mr. Quinn’s office did not return their calls to clarify the situation or identify other resources,” stated the complaint, filed by Meredith Leyva, Operation Homefront’s co-founder and chief creative officer.

“It’s clear we’re set up to help Illinois veterans and military members and their families, but we welcome the opportunity to provide information to military around the world, and to highlight the many organizations helping veterans and families throughout the nation,” said Quinn’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Austin. “We try to respond and refer them when possible, and to let them know what we can and can not do. To the best of my knowledge, people who were confused were referred to the other organization, just as we’ve referred them to other organizations nationwide.”

Austin said Quinn disputes claims that he is violating ethics and trademark law. “We’ve been using the name Operation Home Front for many, many years and do not believe there is an ethical breach in helping as many military families as we can,” Austin said.

She said Quinn began the Operation Home Front program in 1991 when he was state treasurer, to help families of those deployed in the first Gulf War. Quinn created the domain name in 2001 in support of his organization called the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, during his campaign for lieutenant governor. After he became lieutenant governor, she said, the site became a state outreach effort. “The site has been used strictly to help military families who want help from the state of Illinois and need it, and to let people know about programs to help them,” she said.

Quinn has been “tireless in his support of military men and women and anyone who suggests otherwise doesn’t know him” she said.

The site has had more than 19 million hits, she said, “making it the most accessed Web site of its kind in the nation.”

The other Operation Homefront, which officially trademarked its name last November, is not listed on the lieutenant governor’s Web site.

Leyva’s complaint said her organization has tried to work with Quinn on a publicity campaign that distinguishes the two organizations in a positive way, “but Mr. Quinn refuses to compromise in any way. More important, he refuses to clarify anywhere on his on Web site that the Illinois Military Relief Fund is a different organization than Operation Homefront, nor will he use a more appropriate state government-designed URL address.”

A spokesman for the Illinois Inspector General said that by Illinois law, he can neither confirm nor deny whether the agency is investigating a complaint.

Ellie