Anti-Kony Charity Slammed for Spending Habits, Gun Pic

'If you don't accept our unorthodoxy, you don't get us,' says co-founder

By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 9, 2012 3:01 AM CST | Updated Mar 9, 2012 5:00 AM CST

(Newser) – An evangelical-linked charity behind a massively viral video exposing the evils of African warlord Joseph Kony is scrambling to answer questions about how it spends its money and a controversial photo showing members posing with weapons. Only 32% of $8.6 million raised by video-maker Invisible Children last year went to direct services, "with much of the rest going to salaries, travel, transport, and film production," according to an analysis of public finance reports by student blog Visible Children. More troubling to critics is the organization's suspected support for military intervention, apparently underscored by a photo of charity founders posing with guns with members of the Sudan Liberation Army, reports ABC News.

The charity, headquartered in San Diego, has posted a lengthy defense against critics on its website. Invisible Children is "faith-based," but doesn't want to be defined that way, co-founder Jason Russell tells ABC News. "We are unorthodox and if you don't accept the unorthodoxy of what we do, then you won't get it," he added. He also criticized the "old model" of charity fundraising that aims to deliver most donations directly to subjects, rather than more effectively spending money on advocacy. Russell called the gun picture—taken at the 2008 Juba Peace Talks when Kony was supposed to sign a peace treaty—a "joke photo" for family and friends. But AP photographer Glenna Gordon tells the Washington Post that she believes the photo she took smacks of colonialism, and that it "plays into the myth that Invisible Children are very much trying to create." While no one takes issue with attacking Kony, Gordon laments the "emotional manipulation" and inaccuracies of videos made by the group.

Leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, warlord Joseph Kony.
Leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, warlord Joseph Kony.   (AP Photo/Stuart Price, File, Pool)
Invisible Children founders Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell pose with guns alongside members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in this 2008 photo taken by AP photograph Glenna Gordon.
Invisible Children founders Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell pose with guns alongside members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in this 2008 photo taken by AP photograph Glenna Gordon.   (AP photographer Glenna Gordon via Facebook)
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