A post on the website Ripoff Report accuses Phoenix Jones and his wife Purple Reign of supplementing their personal finances with money raised to benefit a non-profit organization that supports victims of domestic violence. The real ripoff, however, is that the allegation seems totally bogus.
Purple Reign Campaign PurpleReign Domestic Violence Fundraising InternetTaken at face value, that's a serious -- and potentially criminal -- charge. Read between the lines, however, and there are several red flags about the writing. While the anonymous author claims Purple Reign "has been asked" about the charity money, they don't say who did the asking, or when. The phrase "it has been rumored" also sets off alarm bells, since rumors are just that -- rumors -- unless there's some hard evidence to back them up.
Fundraising campaign to benefit a non-profit agency for victims of domestic violence. The campaign was to end with a concert event in May 2012 with all proceeds to be donated. "Purple Reign" has been asked directly in person, and via her website about a final accounting and handover of the funds to the NP agency with no response, report, announcement, or blog post.
It has been rumored that she and her superhero husband, Phoenix Jones, have some financial problems and have used the funds raised for their own personal finances."
Following up with all parties involved, it turns out that evidence is non-existant.
"All funds collected have been and will continue to be sent to North West Family Life, no funds have been used for personal use or expenses," Purple Reign responded with a comment on Ripoff Report. "No one has contacted me directly or indirectly about these claims as stated in this report."
She directed further questions to her attorney, Caitlin DiMotta. DiMotta says the allegation was the work of an Internet "troll," and notes that Ripoff Report is not the most reputable venue to raise such concerns.
"They can say whatever they want an no one can challenge them," DiMotta says of Ripoff Report. "It's this for-profit troll site that just makes these statements and people can't sue to take them down. There's no substance to it. You don't even know who's making the accusation and no one gets to challenge it."
That much is more or less true. Ripoff Report was created in 1998 by a guy named Ed Magedson as the consumer complaints answer to Snopes, or Yelp without any of the positive comments. It hosts any and all consumer complaints. The accused can post a "rebuttal," and customers "consumer comments."
But even if an author admits they told a boldfaced lie about something, the site's editors still will not delete -- only amend -- the original post. They detail why on the main homepage of their website (the short version: doing so would be tantamount to "rabid censorship."), and explain that this practice is supported by the Communications Decency Act, which says websites cannot be held legally responsible for hosting user-generated content.
Phoenix New Times profiled Magedson in 2007, detailing his website's startling popularity (by 2007 it already totaled more than 8 billion hits, and hosted more than 225,000 user-written "reports" on various companies), and raising questions about his practice of squeezing payments out of businesses to "mitigate" negative comments on the site.
DiMotta notes that Purple Reign was herself a victim of domestic violence in a previous relationship, and questions the motives of whomever is responsible for the Ripoff Report post. (Magedson provided the author's email address upon request, but he or she has yet to respond to a message from Seattle Weekly sent yesterday evening.)
The attorney says the benefit concert -- which featured performances by the bands Quickie and Ghost Town Riot, an appearance by actor Rainn Wilson, and a silent auction for goods and services from a variety of local businesses -- was not affiliated with a registered non-profit, but "they're going to comply with every law that's applicable to them."
The final nail in the coffin for the Ripoff Report theft allegation comes courtesy of Nancy Murphy, executive director of Northwest Family Life. Her organization's stated mission is to "assist individuals and families in finding hope and healing when facing the pain of domestic violence and related issues."
Murphy confirms that Purple Reign Campaign has already handed over "just under $2,000" in funds from the silent auction, and more is still to come from the Nectar door charge and t-shirt sales.
As for the Ripoff Report post, here's what Murphy had to say: "There's no truth to that. I don't know who would make a statement like that or why, but there's no truth to that."