TAFF Funds Missing as 1997 Race Approaches
by Andy Hooper and
Victor M. Gonzalez
It is unclear how much money will be available to the winner of the 1997 North America to Britain Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race. Funds held by previous British administrator Abi Frost are no longer available, and it is unknown whether they will be recovered.
Nevertheless, nominations are now open for the 1997 TAFF election, to send a North American fan to Great Britain for the Eastercon national convention, to be held the final weekend of March, 1997. Voting will begin on December 2nd, 1996 and conclude February 8th, 1997.
To explain, we offer this "press release," issued on behalf of TAFF, with the approval of administrators Martin Tudor and Dan Steffan, by various past administrators: Rob Hansen, Dave Langford (who drafted the text and accepts responsibility for infelicities), Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Greg Pickersgill, and Pam Wells:
"As has been the subject of extensive recent gossip in fandom (especially UK fandom), the TransAtlantic Fan Fund in Europe has suffered a major financial setback. The European fund has not been passed on to the 1996 TAFF winner and current UK administrator, Martin Tudor.The editors of Apparatchik feel it is in the best interest of those who participate in TAFF on any level to have the whole story before voting for the 1997 race begins on December 2nd. As yet, no one has been officially nominated, or even publicly expressed an intention to stand for the honor, but because there has been no official announcement of the race to date, this is not surprising. There is still time for American fans to offer themselves as TAFF delegates providing they 1) secure the nomination of two American and three European fans, 2) post a nominal $20 bond promising to make the trip should they win, and 3) submit a 100-word platform detailing their interest and qualifications for being a representative of American fandom at the British national convention.
"Thanks to general fannish goodwill, it was assumed that pass-on delays following Tudor's victory in early May were the result of simple disorganization on the part of former administrator Abigail Frost. Frost has additionally failed to publish the usual detailed voting figures and list of European voters, which are still not known. In late June, after repeated urgent enquiries, Frost responded indirectly by informing a non-involved person that no money was available; that person passed the news to Tudor.
"The missing sum is assumed to be some #2,600, based on the amount known to be held by Frost at the end of 1994 (in her first and last TAFF newsletter she gave the then balance as #1,933.06), plus subsequent identifiable donations, estimated income from voting fees, etc. Expenses in the same period are thought to have been minimal. Frost has not directly responded to any TAFF-related letters or phone calls to her answering machine since the announcement of Tudor's win, nor made her usual appearances at London pub meetings since early June.
"TAFF traditionally has no secrets, except of course for individual voters' choices in the balloting. But it was felt that Martin Tudor's 1996 US trip -- made possible only by personal loans, anonymous contributions, American TAFF funds, the Mexicon Hat, and other donations -- would be ruined by endless argument and recrimination if all of the above, and its implications, were publicly discussed at that time. The matter was therefore kept confidential until Tudor had returned and recovered from his travels.
"Unfortunately, despite Tudor's determination to release the full facts immediately on return to England, this announcement was delayed for several weeks by unavoidable personal crises -- including illness. All those involved would like to apologize to fandom for the unintended and most regrettable delay.
"The position remains unclear in several areas, including the possibility of TAFF's representatives taking legal action. What is certain is that the European TAFF fund is desperately short of cash, and that Martin Tudor's difficulties in performing (and performing well) as the 1996 TAFF delegate were an order of magnitude worse than those faced by virtually any previous winner."
Frost's actions are the latest in a series of intermittent problems that have hit the fund since it was established in 1952 to help fans cross the Atlantic Ocean and meet their foreign compatriots. Although discussions of TAFF's value and procedures have frequently come up over the years, the last significant conflict was "Topic A," in which fan Richard Bergeron accused now-London fan Avedon Carol of fixing the vote so that Rob Hansen would win the 1984 race. While the conflict over these allegations raged for several years, those charges were never proven and are generally considered to have been without merit.
Frost has been a largely silent administrator since she won the race in 1993 and travelled to six U.S. cities on a notoriously unhappy trip. That was her second attempt to win TAFF; Pam Wells defeated her by a wide margin in the 1991 race. Frost published three issues of Election Special, a one-page fanzine, during the 1991 race, and a single issue of In Progress during her trip in 1993. British fans report that she published a statement of British TAFF assets sometime in 1994.
Traditionally, two sets of numbers have been kept, one in Britain and one in the U.S. Reports of fund totals have been offered in past years, but there have never been separate accounts established solely to administer the money, which is gathered through auctions and other fundraising, and by a $2 (or #2) fee charged to people who vote in the contest.
During the 1993 trip, Frost repeatedly asked that the 1994 U.S. to U.K. race be delayed by a year to allow an extra year of fund-raising. She did not explain why the extra fund-raising was needed, but the race was delayed. Dan Steffan won the 1995 race, and went to the Glasgow world convention. Steffan had this to say about financial conditions imposed on his trip:
"Despite her long-standing record of inertia, nobody saw it coming. I know I certainly didn't. Though now, in retrospect, I see that the tell-tale signs were there as early as my own TAFF trip in 1995. During the planning stages for the trip I had been quite surprised by Ms. Frost's intense nationalism about the sovereignty of the British fund and her insistence that my trip to the UK be paid for strictly from American TAFF funds. My argument that TAFF was an international organization and that it was all just one big pot was met with stern condemnation from my British counterpart. It was a battle I didn't want to fight -- TAFF is about unity to me, not segregation -- and bowed to Ms. Frost's wishes.
"Any suspicions I might have had were displaced on my arrival to the UK when Ms. Frost generously paid for my room at Precursor and offered me a small stipend for spending money during my visit. I assumed at the time that her generosity was something she was doing against her better judgment, but that she was trying to be a good host despite her nationalism, which was further reinforced by her ardent demands that the promised money for Rob Hansen's TAFF report go directly to her, and not become part of the American fund. I never conceived of the notion that TAFF UK was bankrupt. But it was, and, apparently, so was Ms. Frost."
Dan's conjecture as to Abi Frost's own financial solvency cannot be confirmed: there has been so little direct contact between Abi and fandom for the past four months that there is really no way of knowing what her abilities or intentions may be in regard to the fund. While we urge concerned parties in British fandom to do what they can to recover the missing money, our energies and those of other North American fans would probably be best spent in the effort to build the American fund, the current sum of all TAFF assets at $1,700, back up in anticipation of the upcoming 1997 trip.
UPDATE 11/07/96: Martin Tudor has released TAFFlon Tudor #2. (Accessible from the TAFF Home Page.)
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