Sean Hannity in serious military charity scandal
When conservative commentators begin eating their own, you know that something is up.
Debbie Schlussel is a reasonably well-known conservative commentator with a large radio and online following. While I have always found her to be over the top – particularly with her anti-Muslim rhetoric – she certainly has the respect of the conservative community. So when she broke a story a few days ago accusing Sean Hannity’s charity of being a ‘scam’, this naturally got my attention.
Schlussel claims that the Freedom Concerts conducted by Hannity and the Freedom Alliance (whose chairman is Oliver North) have been an unconscionable con. The concerts are supposed to be raising money to pay college tuition for the children of soldiers who have died in our foreign wars and to provide needed funds to help out soldiers severely injured in battle. Clearly, a noble goal and a charity well worth helping out.
Or is it?
Check out what Schlussel has discovered in researching the organization for the past year-
But it’s all a huge scam.
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.
Note that Schlussel does not accuse Hannity or the charity of doing anything illegal. Rather she accuses the popular radio and television talker of wasting an inordinate amount of the funds to feather his reputation as a great friend of our troops while burning up money on private planes and expensive hotel rooms. This is money that those who donated to the charity believe is going to meet the objectives of the charity.
More importantly, it’s money that our badly injured veterans and the kids of those who gave their lives could most certainly use.
Ironically, just last night, Hannity was honored with an award for “Outstanding Community Service by a Radio Talk Show Host” at Talkers Magazine’s convention.
Given the serious nature of Schlussel’s accusations, I went to the source for all information on charities – the tax returns. I began with the organization’s 2008 tax filings which were filed in November of 2009.
It’s not a pretty picture. While I encourage you to go through the return on your own, here’s the bottom line –
In 2008, the charity raised $8,781,431 in revenue and gave out just $1,060,275.57–or 12%–to seriously wounded soldiers and for scholarships to kids of soldiers who have died. About 80% was spent on expenses, including $1,055,791 on postage, $925,392 on printing and $157,041 on travel.
Folks, when a charity’s expenditure on stamps equals the amount they spent fulfilling the actual mission of the charity, something is seriously wrong.
It is a well established rule of thumb that a legitimate charity is expected to spend 75% of its revenues on the mission of the charity. In 2008, Freedom Alliance spent 12%
And that was a good year!
The charity’s 2007 tax return reveals only 7% was spent on scholarships and payments to veterans. The 2006 returns reveal a truly appalling situation – while the organization took in almost $11 million, they spent only $400,000 on scholarships and grants to injured soldiers.
Yesterday, Freedom Alliance issued a response to Schlussel’s allegations.
To say that it was far from satisfying would be an understatement. No matter how they try to explain away the numbers, there is no escaping the bottom line – people have contributed huge sums of money to help the troops and their families, and only a tiny fraction of that money has been spent as it was supposed to be spent.
It is no secret that I do not hold Sean Hannity in very high regard. He is a man who stares into a camera and speaks into a microphone and lies. He does this for the sole purpose of increasing his ratings and income while scaring the hell out of his believing audience as he purposely misleads them. Indeed, so believing is his audience, I would bet the farm that they will give Hannity a pass on this entire scandal.
But unless Hannity can adequately disprove the allegations by providing detailed information on how the charity has spent its money or show how the numbers in the tax returns are somehow misleading, there will be a special place in Hell created for this man.
Living it up on the backs of our fallen soldiers is about as bad as it gets.