Is Cindy Sheehan's Peace House in Ruins?

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Jason Reed / Reuters

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan, center, marches with supporters towards the ranch of U.S. President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, April 6, 2007.

When Cindy Sheehan began her antiwar vigils against President Bush, her operational base was a small residence not far from his summer home in Crawford, Texas. It was called the Crawford Peace House and it provided refuge and refreshment to the thousands of activists and protesters who traveled to Crawford to join Sheehan's quest to end the war in Iraq. Sheehan became a director of the Peace House board, though she would move her headquarters to Camp Casey, a mile away, named for the son she lost in Iraq. Now, however, a financial dispute has enveloped the Peace House and, though Sheehan is trying to remain above the fray, it may drag her into the controversy.

Several peace activists, led by Sara Oliver, who lives in nearby Waco, allege the leaders of the nonprofit corporation have mismanaged thousands of dollars in donations brought in by Sheehan's efforts. Peace House officers vehemently deny the charge and say they are being "swift-boated."

Oliver discovered the group had lost its state nonprofit corporate charter earlier this year for failing to file franchise tax reports in 2006. She has claimed the name and has formed her own nonprofit corporation. Directors and officers of the original corporation, including Sheehan, lost their legal cover from liability for debts or judgments when the charter was voided.

Oliver says she plans to get a court order to pull down the Peace House website and she wants a full investigation of the group's finances. Despite her urging, no law enforcement or state official has offered to investigate the case. A Democrat, Oliver said she will take advantage of a pro bono offer from a Republican attorney. "If I have to, I am going to go to the far right to settle this," she told TIME. "I want the Peace House to be run with honor and integrity."

Kay Lucas, Peace House director, said she is saddened by the whole turn of events. The group relied on a part-time bookkeeper and she said the "tsunami" of donations that poured in during the summer of 2005 when Sheehan started her vigil overwhelmed the staff. "But we've accounted for every penny," Lucas said. The financial statements have been posted on the website. Before Sheehan's August 05 protest, the bank account was down to single digits. The group ended the year with $56,523, but donations have fallen off and the Peace House ended 2006 with just $14,722. Oliver wants to know where all the money went, including $300,000 she claims was raised by passing around buckets at an outdoor showing of Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11.

Lucas says that Peace House has filed the delinquent franchise tax reports and is in the process of forming a new corporation. It is unlikely Sheehan will be a director, Lucas said. Sheehan declined to comment on the feud. Since buying the Camp Casey site, Sheehan has not been as closely affiliated to the Peace House, Lucas said. Oliver suggests there is friction between supporters of the two sites, but Lucas dismisses that notion. Oliver has not been in touch with Sheehan but her legal fight could embroil the famous peace activist and expose splits in the movement. Says Lucas: "The real issue is peace. The real issues are not whether Camp Casey and the Crawford Peace House get along or whether some disgruntled person wants her 15 minutes of fame by trashing the Crawford Peace House and hijacking the name." Lucas adds: "Too much has been made of this. The real issue is what our government is doing." But for now, there's a a new battle in the Iraq war and its frontline is a little house on a dusty street in Crawford.