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Tampa Tribune defend and apologize for two Congressmen who used campaign contributions for Shriners Freemasons

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Tampa Tribune's Tom Jackson Epic Jester Bilirakis Fail

By Sandy Frost

Sun Oct 28, 2012

Tom Jackson’s column of October 19, 2012, “Resign? Surely Bilirakis' rival jests” dismisses serious issues by not taking them seriously. He and the Tampa Tribune defend and apologize for one of two Congressmen who used campaign contributions for membership in a group with members convicted of sex crimes with links to child sex tourism in Brazil.

Jackson wrote:

“They (Masonic conspiracy theorists) might even agree that, for Shriners' work on behalf of sick and injured youngsters, members deserve to let loose from time to time. Shriners think so, too. Thus was born the Royal Order of Jesters, whose animating principle, apparently, is to encourage members' inner party animals. Jesters gather to laugh and behave, well, foolishly, as a reward for their good deeds supporting Shriners' charities. Well. It seems even good-hearted men will be boys when they get the chance. Accordingly, news reports in recent years suggest a handful of Jesters chapters (out of 191 in North America) have taken their motto — "Mirth is King" — to tawdry and occasionally illegal extremes.”

Jackson writes like an insider.

Or maybe like a wanna-be.

He writes that the Jesters are the party animals of the Shriners, accuses Bilirakis’ opponent of “guilt by association” and ends by writing “Without the meat of more credible evidence — innuendo fails the prosecutor's test — we regard this entire affair with an eyebrow raised, denoting our skepticism.”

Here’s the “meat of more credible evidence.”

I have investigated the Royal Order of Jesters the past four years as part of a six year investigation into the Shriners after one of them asked me to investigate his own. My overall finding is that the Jesters are the worst nonprofit scandal of our time – human trafficking at taxpayer expense.

“Jesters in Congress” evolved from a CNN request for background information on the dark side of the Shriners because the Ryder Cup was being played at Medinah Country Club. I found connections from the Jesters to the current Medinah Shriner Divan. One made a campaign contribution from his Jester court. I then searched OpenSecrets.org for “Royal Order of Jesters.”

I published “Jesters in Congress” on September 27, 2012. I also called for Bilirakis’ resignation, investigation by law enforcement and alleged he presents a clear and present security risk because of he sits on the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees.

John Russell is running against Bilirakis and made public these allegations at a candidate forum on October 15.

WCTV reporter Andy Alcock began covering this story the next day, October 16.

The Tampa Bay Times published “Challenger files complaint over Bilirakis link to Royal Order of Jesters” by Lee Logan on October 25.

To his credit, Logan reports “The group does not divulge its membership and has rituals known only to members.”

National Jester tax returns list “rituals” as “Program Service Revenues,” reporting $282 in 2011, $204 in 2010 and $336 in 2009. Nonprofit tax returns and all information on them are public.

You can find the Jesters’ tax returns at Guidestar.org.

According to the 2011 return for the “Royal Order of Jesters Tampa Court 89,” they are headquartered at 3315 Henderson Blvd, Tampa, Florida and can be reached at 1 813 872 7961. The principal officer is Joe LeClair, 20500 Cot Road #616 Lutz, Florida. He is also the Jester contact on this Charity Blossom site.

Their treasurer is the same as the preparer, Jimmy C. Fischer, CPA of Jimmy C. Fischer & Co, CPA’s 3315 Henderson Blvd., Tampa, Florida. He can be reached at 1 813 872 7961.

The Jesters’ mission is “promote fellowship and mirth.”

Program service accomplishments?

“Happiness and mirth was spread throughout the realm.”

Keep in mind that someone at the IRS approved this.

Officers include Joseph A. LeClair “Impresario,” James Knight “Leading Man,” Michael Wick “Director,” Jimmy C. Fischer “Treasurer” and James Justice “Tragedian.”

The tax fraud is that the Jesters itemize and deduct their costs of operating a nationwide network of prostitution, They are tax exempt. When the Jesters don’t pay taxes, the rest of us make up for what they don’t pay.

They play.

We pay.

Back to Tom Jackson.

The “The Royal Order of Jesters” is a secret sub-group of Shriners. Their motto is "mirth is king” with about 21,000 members organized into 191 "courts.” that sponsor social gatherings known as “books of the play." Sponsoring courts organize "books" for Jesters from all over the country.

According to the FBI, “A typical feature of a ‘book of the play’ is the presence of prostitutes (‘Jester Girls’) who engage in commercial sex acts with members of the ROJ. Arrangements for the prostitutes are generally made by the organizer of the ‘books,’ or the region hosting the national ‘book.’ On occasion, individual Jesters may make arrangements to transport prostitutes to ‘books’"

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Buffalo, NY successfully prosecuted retired Sheriff Michael Lesinski, detailed in this FBI press release “Former Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Sentenced for Failing to Report Jester Prostitution in Canada.”

Lesinski’s criminal complaint includes testimony from former police captain John Trowbridge, who pleaded guilty to Mann Act violations. He described attending Jester "books," stating that prostitutes were present to perform commercial sex acts with Jesters. He told the FBI about members of the Buffalo Court, including Ronald Tills, then a New York State Supreme Court Judge, and his law clerk, Michael Stebick, who transported Jester Girls to "books" for sex with Jesters.

Lesinski’s plea agreement establishes that those knowing about Jester felonies and don’t report them are as guilty as he of misprision of a felony, defined by the Cornell University Law School as:

“Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

Lesinski pleaded guilty to knowing about Jester felonies and not reporting them after driving prostitutes to a national Jester convention and lying to the border patrol.

Federal Election Commission expense reports detail Bilirakis’ use of campaign contributions for membership fees and “Jester event registration" AKA Book of the Play.

John Russell filed a complaint against Bilirakis on October 22.

Contrary to what Tom Jackson and Billirakis aide Sarah Criser claim, there are no bona fide campaign or political purposes to justify using campaign contributions for Jester expenses.

From the Congressional Ethics Office, House Ethics Manual:

“In summary, under House rules, campaign funds are to be used for bona fide campaign or political purposes only. Campaign funds are not to be used to enhance a member‘s lifestyle, or to pay a member‘s personal obligations. Members have wide discretion in determining what constitutes a bona fide campaign or political purpose to which campaign funds and resources may be devoted, but Members have no discretion whatsoever to convert campaign funds to personal use. Furthermore, House rules require that Members be able to verify that campaign funds have not been used for personal purposes.”

The State of Indiana proved that the Jesters have no political or community purpose after their Board of Tax Review denied the Jesters appeal for property tax exemption. The decision, in favor of the Marion County Assessor, states that the Jesters’ property should be 100% taxable because "The Jesters failed to prove the property was predominantly used for any exempt purpose." Additionally,

•The Jesters failed to show they provided a public benefit that would justify the loss of tax revenue.

•The Jesters do not serve the class of people that are legitimate subjects of charity.

•The property does not relieve any government burden.

•The Jesters are a recreational group that is predominantly a social club.

•The Jesters aren’t engaged in any charitable activities.

•Jester educational activities are limited to the membership.

•The government has no obligation to provide entertainment, merriment or “mirth.”

Bilirakis aide, Sarah Criser, told Jackson that the Congressman is "an inactive member of the local group that is unconnected" to other Jesters' legal entanglements.” In contrast, Jackson wrote “Perhaps this explains Bilirakis' years-old dash to inactive status.”

This means that Bilirakis is still a Jester.

Remember how the FBI defined the “Book of the Play”? The Tampa "Book of the Play" will be held at the Plantation Inn, Crystal River, Florida from November 8-12. According to what the FBI claims, the Bilirakis spokesperson is wrong because the upcoming Jester event is connected by title and FBI definition.

If Bilirakis was trying to distance himself from the Jesters, as Jackson suggests, why did he praise Shriners’ Past Imperial Potentate Jack H. Jones on the floors of Congress and proudly announce his membership in the Royal Order of Jesters in his speech of July 14 of 2009?

In his speech, Bilirakis discloses his own Shriner membership.

So how does Bilirakis' Jester membership present a security risk?

Bilirakis swore as a U.S. Congressman and as a member of the Florida bar association to uphold the constitution. He sits on both the Foreign Affairs and the Homeland Security Committees. As such, he oversees and create laws for the Department of Homeland Security, the same agency that helped catch his Jester “brothers” in a FBI human trafficking sting.

At the same time, Bilirakis upholds “Shrine law” meaning “the articles of incorporation of The Imperial Council, these bylaws and any general or special orders at the time in effect, but it does not include the law of the land.”

Doesn’t this, at the very least, seem like a conflict of interest? At worst, treason because of supersedingd oaths?

Here is the Jesters' Oath from the Book of the Play:

"Candidates will be hoodwinked and will in unison repeat the following pledge as the DIRECTOR pronounces it to them; I _________________________ do hereby accept and acknowledge this contract and pledge with the Royal Jesters and members of the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine: I promise never to select or propose any Noble whom I know to be weak or vacillating, or of unknown, or doubted, loyalty, or integrity, morality, or temper.

Furthermore, I do by this obligation, elect myself an Evangelist of the Gospel of Mirth, accepting from my Fellow Jesters, a mission to lighten the burdens of all whom I know to be of the initiate, and for them will I always hang the latch string without the portals of my true heart.

"In witness whereof I do place my right hand upon my heart, and bind the convenient we have made amongst us, pledging my faith and honor as a man, that I will not reveal to any person, not a member in good standing of the Royal Jesters, any part, word or action of the ceremonies which have been enacted here, are now being enacted, or are to be enacted hereafter, during this or any other session of the or any other Court of Royal Jester."

Were Bilirakis to explain his Jester membership and denounce their nationwide network of sex trafficking, call for an investigation under the RICO statutes and spill his guts to Homeland Security (to avoid conflict of interest since he is on the committee), he would be honoring his Congressional and bar oaths to uphold the constitution.

Instead, Bilirakis’ silence upholds his Jester oath and Shriner oath to bylaws that do not include the laws of the land.

The questions now become:

What did Bilirakis know and when did he know it?

Upon finding out about the Jesters’ sex crimes, did Bilirakis report the crimes or like Lesinski, quietly protect his brothers?

And why is his aide telling the media that the Congressman is still a Jester?

If the editors of the Tampa Tribune and Tom Jackson want to remain reliable, trustworthy and accurate news sources, they need to sit down with their new owners and figure out how they missed all of this. Instead, Jackson's use of "we" creates the worst case scenario as the Tampa Tribune dismisses Bilirakis' misuse of campaign contributions for a group involved with human trafficking.

Further Reading

The Royal Order of Jesters - 'Mirth is King'

The Shriners - The 'Krafty' Clowns