Martin C. Evans

Is Hannity vets fundraising tainted?

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Sean Hannity accused of promoting dubious vets fundraising

A veterans organization and a Washington-based watchdog group have accused Fox television pundit Sean Hannity of soliciting donations intended to help families of dead soldiers for an organization they say spends relatively little on charity.

The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Hannity makes on-air solicitations for Virginia-based Freedom Alliance by saying 100 percent of monies raised go directly to the charity’s scholarship fund.

Sloan said the appeal is misleading because it does not acknowledge overhead costs that an independent organization says eats up almost one in two dollars donated.

“They are preying on the generosity of Americans who want to help the chldren of war veteran when the money is going to huge administrative costs and not to helping veterans and their families,” said Center executive director Melanie Sloan.

A Fox spokesperson declined to make Hannity available, and said she would have no comment.

Alan Moore, a spokesman for Freedom Alliance, e-mailed a response calling the accusations “false and malicious”. The letter said 79 percent of its spending in 2008 was on “program activities,” and only 21 percent on management.

Moore said Hannity is a volunteer for the organization. The response said Hannity “has been a selfless patriot in his effort to raise funds for the education of children of armed services personnel.”

The American Institute of Philanthropy, which rates charity organizations, disputed the 79 percent figure as misleading.

Institute president David Borochoff said its analysis of Freedom Alliance shows it spent 54 percent of its budget on charity programs and 46 percent on overhead, and attributed the higher “program activities” figure Freedom Alliance provided to accounting rules that allow organizations to count some fundraising costs as program spending.

“We think 60 percent should be a bare minimum,” said Borochoff, who said most well-run charities put 70 percent or more of donations directly into programs.

Borochoff said the Institute currently gives Freedom Alliance a C-minus rating. It had a D rating last year, and an F the year before, Borochoff said.

The chairman of VoteVets.org, a veterans organization that supports Iraq and Afghanistan veterans running for political office, said he is concerned that Freedom Alliance’s fundraising practices will undermine other fundraising drives for veterans.

“Most of the money is going to administration, consulting fees, money that was intended to go to the children of dead service members,” said VetsVote.org chairman Jon Soltz. “My concern is that people won’t know who to trust.”

One way Freedom Alliance raises money is through music concerts produced by a marketing company headed by Duane Ward. Ward also heads Premier Speakers Bureau, which represents Hannity and fellow Fox commentator Oliver North, Freedom Alliance’s founder and honorary chairman.

Sloan said only a portion of the money raised by the concerts is forwarded to Freedom Alliance.

Sloan said Hannity has promoted the concerts on his show, saying “Every penny, 100 percent of the donations are applied to the Freedom Alliance scholarship fund.”

“To have Sean Hannity fronting it and saying 100 percent of the money goes to veterans is unethical,” Sloan said.

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  1. As the founder of a non- profit foundation that supports our deployed military I was quite distressed after reading your article about Sean Hannity misrepresenting the amount of donated funds that go to the mission of Freedom Alliance. There is always an overhead in running a foundation , but the integrity of a foundation will keep the overhead as low as possible.
    Claiming that 100% of all donations go to the mission itself not only hurts Freedom Alliance but hurts the many non profits that are keeping overhead costs low and are honest .

    As a Gold Star Mother (mother who lost their child to war) it breaks my heart that good people who want to help the children of the fallen might now hold back. The children need and deserve our support and love. Their parents were heroes and laid down their lives for this country. To compromise the integrity of helping these children speaks for itself.

    With the economic challenges we are all faced with today,these challanges have certainly impacted non profit foundations. Misrepresentation causes mistrust and people do not know where to reach out with their charitable donations. This has hurt many reputable foundations. The individuals who are served through these non profits are the ones to suffer.

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