IAFF Dodges MDA Bullet

Eric Lamar
4 min readAug 10, 2020


Wall Street Journal caves, but it’s just dying kids, right?

The IAFF spends next to nothing to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association(MDA).

Most recognized is the annual Labor Day campaign where firefighters take to the streets at fill-the-boot events.

For doing nothing, the IAFF then bills the national MDA over $1,000,000 in what amounts to thinly veiled extortion.

Below is a screen grab of how the IAFF reports this windfall to the Federal government.

IAFF Haul from MDA in 2018

The IAFF even calls the incoming cash from MDA a “donation” recognizing they did nothing to earn it.

For MDA it’s like making a donation with a gun in your ribs.

Who actually pays the expenses?

Local governments, of course.

Taxpayer-funded fire departments foot the bill for the fill-the-boot campaign including paying the salaries and providing the trucks and all of the logistical support for the collection of millions of dollars every year.

IAFF local unions seek permission from their fire chiefs to go out and fund raise on “company time” and these chiefs, eager to play nice with the union, go along.

In doing so, fire chiefs abet fraud and extortionate behavior and use taxpayer funds to do it.

Honest and ethical fire chiefs should ban MDA on-duty fundraising or the use of publicly-owned resources until the IAFF stops skimming cash.

Regional MDA chapters also tell firefighters that all of the money they collect “stays local” an at-best contortion of the truth hiding an outrageous and long running scam on sick and dying children.

Making a buck on dying kids

President for life

Harold Schaitberger, mafia don that he is, figured out long ago that the IAFF/MDA relationship could be leveraged for his profit, so, of course, he did.

Schaitberger reportedly went to the head of MDA, Steve Dirks, and told him, in effect, to “pony up” or the IAFF would take their local legions of panhandling heroes elsewhere.

This is the Schaitberger version of the mafia thug “visiting” the neighborhood grocer to collect his protection payment, just this time the payment is over a million dollars paid to Schaitberger’s IAFF.

It’s so much money Schaitberger has no idea where to put it all; he sticks it into various budget lines the way Whitey Bulger hid his wads of cash in a wall.

The Wall Street Journal spikes the truth

The Wall Street Journal was poised to expose the scandal when they mysteriously axed the story at the eleventh hour.

Journal reporters had apparently spoken to numerous IAFF members about the scam and attempts to end it.

Perhaps their lawyers, ever risk-averse, even when it comes to ending blatant extortion, pissed their pants.

Perhaps Journal editors lacked the guts to simply tell the truth.

Either way, Schaitberger wins and sick kids lose.

Ed Kelly all in

Also breathing a sigh of relief will be Ed Kelly, IAFF secretary-treasurer and Schaitberger uber-enemy.

Kelly was quick to tell the IAFF board that he was a-ok with ripping off MDA, putting him in the same boat with Schaitberger, whom he accuses of swindling the IAFF through illicit pensions and other shady deals.

Who knew that ripping off dying children could get Kelly and Schaitberger in the same leaky raft?

Schaitberger is fine with stealing from both IAFF members and sick children and Kelly is at least good-to-go on the sick kids part, together they have the bases covered.

And once again, the executive board sits complacently by as the moral and ethical reputation of the IAFF is nuked.

Kelly should be especially ashamed as the IAFF/MDA effort began in Boston some fifty years ago; instead, he goes all in on the scam.

May a pox be upon you

Due to the pandemic, the campaign will be virtual this year, potentially giving MDA and Dirks a reprieve from Schaitberger’s grasping claws.

But the odds are that even if contributions tank, Schaitberger will still demand his cut of the take.

One longtime Schaitberger associate reminds us that “he never leaves a nickel on the table.”

The IAFF is staggering under the weight of its corruption and no evidence is clearer than the great MDA rip-off.

Thousands of IAFF members defend Schaitberger’s MDA shakedown, a sure sign that his corruption has metastasized like a fatal cancer.

It would be a moral triumph if the horror of muscular dystrophy could be visited only on the families of IAFF members who condone this crime.

When we prey on sick children we deserve whatever we get.

And to my fellow IAFF members, if Schaitberger will steal from dying kids, he will take your sorry ass to the cleaners.

End the MDA Shakedown

Eric Lamar has been an IAFF member since 1976.