For the second time in a year, the Pepsi Refresh Project is under fire. Started nearly a year ago, the $20 million online contest awards community grants monthly. The $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or $250,000 grants are given to deserving individuals, businesses and nonprofits based on public votes. But some are complaining that contest for good is actually corrupt.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the online fundraising platform has received complaints from competing nonprofits that the results are being manipulated by proxy voting and international third-party help.
Ann Goody, who runs Three Ring Ranch, an exotic-animal sanctuary in Hawaii, participated in the competition for months. She told The Times:
"I feel like we were cheated out of a win. We worked our hearts out with e-mails, phone calls, Facebook, kids handing out candy canes at Wal-Mart and then we find out our win was stolen from us by people breaking the rules."
Goody, along with others, have singled out the operator of Guardian Angel Feline Rescue and recipient of a $50,000 grant, Carol Shultz, as a culprit. They claim Shultz used an overseas contact to help increase her numbers.
But Shultz says she's innocent. The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday:
Schultz issued a response, saying that she "found myself making stuff up to get (Goody) off my back." [She said] she didn't know the proprietor of the overseas firm, referred to by some as "Mr. Magic," and did not make any payment to him. Schultz also called Goody "a sore loser."
Pepsi has implemented strict rules for the charitable contest, and has ordered experts to examine the voting fraud accusations.
Read more about the accusations at The New York Times.