Hannity-Backed Foundation Fires Back Against Blogger's Accusations
Hannity-Backed Foundation Refutes Blogger's Allegations
An incendiary article from a conservative blogger is being strongly refuted today by its target, a charitable foundation backed by talker Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel.
Posted yesterday by Debbie Schlussel at her site, the piece accuses Hannity of perpetuating "a giant con" in promoting his annual Freedom Concerts, which benefit the Freedom Alliance. At issue are both the group's expenses and subsequent charitable contributions, which Schlussel believes are questionable.
Schlussel's work was quickly picked up and hyped by a number of left-wing websites including the Huffington Post (headline: Hannity Freedom Concerts a 'Scam,' Blogger Says), Media Matters and dozens of others.
In addition, some conservative publications such as the American Spectator slammed "Hannity's big rip-off".
From her piece, which utilizes at least one unnamed source:
In fact, less than 20%–and in two recent years, less than 7% and 4%, respectively–of the money raised by Freedom Alliance went to these causes, while millions of dollars went to expenses, including consultants and apparently to ferry the Hannity posse of family and friends in high style. And, despite Hannity’s statements to the contrary on his nationally syndicated radio show, few of the children of fallen soldiers got more than $1,000-$2,000, with apparently none getting more than $6,000, while Freedom Alliance appears to have spent tens of thousands of dollars for private planes. Moreover, despite written assurances to donors that all money raised would go directly to scholarships for kids of the fallen heroes and not to expenses, has begun charging expenses of nearly $500,000 to give out just over $800,000 in scholarships.
In February 2009, a well-known conservative writer sent me this, about a friend at FOX News:
The guy went on to tell me about Hannity’s “Freedom Concerts,” which are staged across the country with the proceeds going to children of slain soldiers. Of course, as the guy tells it, there’d be a lot more money every concert to go to the cause if Hannity didn’t demand–and get–use of a Gulfstream 5 plane to fly him and his family/entourage to the concerts; a “fleet” (that’s the word the guy used) of either Cadillac or Lincoln SUVs for him and his family/entourage; and several suites at really expensive hotels for him and his family/entourage. The promoter apparently values Hannity’s star demands at well over $200,000 per event. The source says he heard that Oliver North pulled Hannity aside at one of the concerts and told him that this had to stop. But that may mean that, from now on, Hannity has to fly on a G4 instead of a G5, gets only a few luxury SUVs, and two or three suites.
North is the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.
I began investigating these claims, and lo and behold, I discovered that Freedom Alliance gives very little money to the children of slain troops to pay for college and even less to wounded troops. The stories of injuries to troops and how much Freedom Alliance gives them–$200 for a soldier from a poor neighborhood who lost three limbs–is heartbreaking. Soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, severe wounds to the face from disfiguring burns and explosions, and multiple amputations got $1,000 or less, with only a handful of exceptions.
Interestingly, one left-wing site actually casts doubt on Schlussel's reporting: Media Matters. From their analysis, which ultimately spins back toward the leftist agenda:
Unfortunately, Schlussel doesn't provide any documentation for the assertion that Freedom Alliance claimed in writing that 100 percent of donated funds would go to scholarships, so we don't know if it's true.
Schlussel's characterizations and assertions need to be taken with more than a grain of salt -- they require an entire salt lick, at least. But her numbers seem to check out. If her assertions that Hannity has made false claims in raising money for the charity are also true, that would be scandalous.
Editors at The New York Times and the Washington Post have said in recent months that their papers need to do a better job of picking up on stories right-wing web sites are pushing. Schlussel's investigation into Hannity and Freedom Alliance would seem like a good place for the Post and Times to do some digging -- unless, of course, they only intend to follow up on conservative attacks on liberals.
But the Freedom Alliance itself is taking strong exception to her allegations. From a statement released moments ago:
March 18, 2010
Dear Friends of Freedom Alliance:
This week, false and malicious allegations about Freedom Alliance were posted on the Internet and we want to address them with you. We don’t know the motivation for these vicious smears, but we will not allow them to go unanswered.
First, we want to thank you for your support and assure you that Freedom Alliance’s record of financial stewardship and programmatic achievements not only meets, but exceeds standards of program efficiency set by most charity evaluators. We are extraordinarily proud of our work at Freedom Alliance and stand by our efforts 100 percent.
1. The blog posting accuses our friend Sean Hannity of personally benefiting from Freedom Alliance. This is FALSE. Freedom Alliance has never provided planes, hotels, cars, limos, or anything else to Sean. Sean gets nothing from Freedom Alliance except our gratitude for his personal generosity and for all he has done to help the troops and our organization. We have never had to ask Sean for anything, he always generously offers his help before we have a chance to ask him. But to be clear Sean pays for all his own transportation, hotels, and all related expenses for himself and his family and friends and staff, which over the years has added up to tens of thousands of dollars. He does not use any Freedom Alliance Funds or Concert funds in any way, period.
2. Sean Hannity has contributed $100,000 to the Wounded Warriors Foundation, over $200,000 to the Freedom Alliance, and over tens of thousands of dollars to other military charities and individuals. We only make this information public because of the outrageous slander against him. Sean has no management or operational involvement in, or control over, Freedom Alliance. He has been a selfless patriot in his efforts to raise funds for the education of children of armed services personnel.
3. The blog posting accuses Freedom Alliance of spending less than 20% of money raised on program activities. This is FALSE. Listed below are the amounts that Freedom Alliance spent for each of the past three years and the categories on which they were spent. The figures are taken from our Federal Form 990 which is filed with the Internal Revenue Service and posted on our web site and audited by an independent auditor using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. This financial record not only meets, but exceeds standards of program efficiency set by most charity evaluators.
4. In 2008, Freedom Alliance spent a total of $6,745,717. Of that:
• • •
79 percent ($5,317,970) was spent on Program Activities 14 percent ($945,950) was spent on Fundraising 7 percent ($481,797) was spent on ManagementIn 2007, Freedom Alliance spent a total of $7,461,350. Of that:
• 81.5 percent ($6,084,474) was spent on Program Activities • 13.5 percent ($1,011,501) was spent on Fundraising • 5 percent ($365,375) was spent on Management
In 2006, Freedom Alliance spent a total of $7,064,839. Of that:
• 77 percent ($5,434,538) was spent on Program Activities • 18.5 percent ($1,308,414) was spent on Fundraising • 4.5 percent ($321,887) was spent on Management
5. The blog posting accuses Freedom Alliance of spending money intended for student scholarships on other expenses. This is FALSE. Freedom Alliance has distributed $3.4 million in Scholarships and created a Scholarship Trust Fund with the additional money that we have raised for that program. That fund now contains $15 million, over $10 million of which has been raised by Hannity and the concerts. Our scholarship program is managed with the understanding that it will be needed for at least the next 20 years as there are children who will ultimately receive a scholarship who are now only a few years old. As indicated on our Federal Form 990, these funds are restricted and used only for future scholarships.
6. Our Scholarship Fund is one of four programs operated by Freedom Alliance. Supporters may donate to a specific program or for general operating purposes. In 2008, Freedom Alliance received $2.1 million in scholarship donations. The same year, we awarded $802,250 in scholarships and applied $1.3 million to our Scholarship Trust Fund. The funds donated by Sean Hannity directly -- or through the proceeds of the Freedom Concerts -- and the support of thousands of Americans are used for these purposes:
• Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund: Providing scholarships to those whose parents have been killed or severely injured in their service to our Country. There is now over $15 million in the scholarship fund for the students as they come of age.
• Support our Troops: Many events each year are planned and executed by our staff to show appreciate and provide special opportunities for those actively serving in the military.
• Leadership Academy: A program for high school students in which they are encouraged and trained to serve their country.
These programs would not be possible without the support of Mr. Hannity and many others.
We are proud of our work and numerous accomplishments. We are grateful to our supporters whose voluntary contributions make it possible and we thank you.
While it is discouraging to have our record misrepresented in such a malicious way, our work is important and, with your support, it will continue.
Thomas P. Kilgannon
Oliver L. North - President Founder & Honorary Chairman
22570 Markey Court, Suite 240 Dulles, Virginia 20166 (703) 444-7940
If there was really something to this, wouldn't the left have uncovered it long ago?
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