Pari Livermore has carefully constructed the persona of the world’s most benevolent Cupid. As a renowned matchmaker, her services gained popularity through glowing reviews in media like The New York Times, The CBS Evening News and The Today Show.
They all celebrated Livermore’s unusual business practices: Instead of requiring payment from her clients, Ms. Livermore instead solicited charitable donations to a collection of organizations including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Child Abuse Prevention Society, the State Parks Foundation, and a few San Francisco-area charities.
Most prominently, Pari champions her own charity, Spotlight On Heroes, for which she throws an annual Red & White Ball for singles to raise funds. In Pari’s own words, the organization operates with the goal of raising money to “see the progress of the children.”
The problem, however, is that the charity Spotlight On Heroes was never actually registered as one—leaving customers who donated thousands to it wondering where the cash ended up. Now, The Daily Beast can confirm, California officials are investigating where Livermore’s money was going all along.
The offices of Assemblyman Marc Levine have reached out to both the office of the attorney general and the California Franchise Tax Board to follow up on their own investigations of Ms. Livermore.
According to the California Franchise Tax Board, when an organization is suspended, it cannot legally conduct business transactions or use the entity’s name. Despite the allegations, Livermore’s matchmaking website remains online this week.
Marilyn Nemzer, executive director of The California Study Inc., believes that recent articles about Spotlight on Heroes’ non-registered status—including one in Buzzfeed, which broke the story—have been misleading gossip.
“For three decades, Pari Livermore has provided matchmaking services and, in return, her clients have supported worthy charitable causes,” she told The Daily Beast. “Her services have been selfless. They have been done to the satisfaction of the clients and to the great benefit of the causes.”
In an email with a potential client, Livermore shared that “Spotlight is currently partnering with the Minnie Cannon School in Middletown, Calif. In the last three years we have provided iPads with Rosetta Stone Software for non-English speaking children, brass instruments for their Music Department, almost a thousand books for their library, funding for after-school programs including art, and self defense.”
“We don’t know how she did it,” said an employee of the Marin Art & Garden Center. “She would just send us the money when she had it.”
This is how Nancy Levine found her before she wound up writing Spotlight On Heroes a check. A recent divorcee in her 50s weary of Internet dating, Levine browsed around Google and stumbled upon a profile of Ms. Livermore in The New York Times.
“I was born in New York City,” Levine tells The Daily Beast. “So when I read The New York Times I believe that it’s true and credible.”
After reading through Pari’s plethora of media coverage, she sent her an email. After a brief exchange the two women met, and Livermore pitched her services. “In my head I thought it’s really hit or miss, meeting somebody,” says Levine. “But gosh, helping disadvantaged kids—who wouldn’t want to do that?”
Livermore solicited her for a $1,000 donation, which wasn’t exactly a small amount for Levine. The check was to be payable to the charity Spotlight on Heroes and mailed to Livermore’s home address.
This prompted Levine to do a little digging. She has made her career as an executive recruiter, so background checks are second nature for her. After a 15-minute flurry of Google searches, she was greeted with the phrase: “Spotlight on Heroes suspended—Suspended By Secretary of State Franchise Tax Board” on the Secretary’s official website.
In other words, Spotlight on Heroes was not a registered charity after all.
Levine reached out to Livermore once more, inquiring if her donation was being made to a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Livermore responded: “Yes. They will send a thank you.”
Now, Levine was upset.
She reached out to the California Attorney General, and inquired if Spotlight on Heroes had ever been registered as a charity. Kristen Ford, the office’s press secretary, quickly confirmed that Spotlight on Heroes had never been registered.
Livermore declined to comment for this story, but shared in an interview with BuzzFeed that she had made some mistakes in how she went about her fundraising.
“I’m a great fundraiser but not a good businesswoman,” she said. She said that she operated Spotlight on Heroes as an affiliate with The California Study, an educational nonprofit, and assumed that this qualified contributions made to it as tax-deductible. “I made a mistake and was naive and too busy to question the California Study about including Spotlight in their nonprofit,” she said in an email to Buzzfeed. “It was not their fault but misjudgment on my part.”