Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Hannity’s Soldier Support Scam

I’m on the mailing list for the Orleans casino in Las Vegas. They sent me an offer a few months ago to buy VIP tickets for a Sean Hannity “freedom concert” featuring him, Ollie North, Billy Ray Cyrus and Lee Greenwood, among others. Leaving aside the fact that if I wouldn’t go to that concert if you held an RPG launcher to my head — I’d rather stay home and hit myself in the balls with a hammer since it would be less painful — here’s another reason to avoid it.

Debbie Schlussel — who is certifiably nuts but seems to have the goods on this issue — did some digging about Freedom Alliance, the group Hannity works with to put on those shows, and found it to be a big scam. Here are some of the details:

For the last several years, Sean Hannity and the Freedom Alliance “charity” have conducted “Freedom Concerts” across America. They’ve told you that they are raising money to pay for the college tuition of the children of fallen soldiers and to pay severely wounded war vets. And on Friday Night, Hannity will be honored with an award for this “Outstanding Community Service by a Radio Talk Show Host” at Talkers Magazine’s convention.

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…

The tax forms available to the public for the Freedom Alliance-for the years 2006-2008-paint a tragic story, a story of a charity that makes gazillions and spends very little for the purposes it claims, a charity that spends millions more on its small staff and crony consultants than it ever gives in scholarships to the children of the fallen or severely injured troops or in aid to the injured troops themselves. While Hannity’s Freedom Concerts take in millions, only a few hundred thousand go to the claimed intended recipients….

Keep in mind that a charity is considered reputable if no more than 25% of its revenue goes to expenses and no less than 75% of it goes to the intended charity recipients. Given that, Freedom Alliance’s balance sheets are embarrassing in their shamelessness.

According to its 2006 tax returns, Freedom Alliance reported revenue of $10, 822, 785, but only $397,900-or a beyond-measly 3.68%-of that was given to the children of fallen troops as scholarships or as aid to severely injured soldiers.

On the other hand, 62% of the money went to “expenses,” including $979,485 for “consultants” and an “advisor.” Yes, consultant/advisors got more than double what injured troops and the kids of fallen troops got. The tax forms show that “New World Aviation” got paid $60,601 for “air travel.” Was that for Hannity’s G5? Like I said, neither the charity nor Hannity is talking. And finally, that year, Freedom Alliance spent $1,730,816 on postage and shipping and $1,414,215 on printing, for a total of $3,145,031, nearly half the revenue the charity spent that year and about eight times what the injured troops and the children of fallen ones received…

Freedom Alliance’s 2007 tax returns aren’t much better. Out of $12,459,317 it raised that year, only $895,347-or just 7%-went to seriously wounded troops and scholarships for fallen troops. 53% went to expenses, including $1,464,627 in postage and $1,151,428 in printing. $604,995 went to “professional fees” and “consultants.” Out of millions paid for Freedom Concert tickets and raised in fundraisers by Hannity listeners, only $596,500 went to college scholarships for soldiers who died in battle, and only $299,897 went to horribly injured troops. 208 student children of the fallen got an average of $2,868 apiece for tuition, though many got only $1,000 or less. 382 soldiers with serious injuries got an average of $785 each….

And then, there are the 2008 Freedom Alliance tax forms, which were signed in November 2009 and filed only recently. That year, Freedom Alliance took in $8,781,431 in revenue and gave $1,060,275.57 total-or just 12%-to seriously wounded soldiers and for scholarships to kids of the fallen. Remember, this is well below the 75% required to be considered a legitimate charity. And after claiming in written letters to donors that 100% of the money donated, via the Freedom Concerts or otherwise, to the scholarships would go directly to the scholarships and not to expenses, the Freedom Alliance decided to do the contrary and charge expenses anyway-charging a whopping $436,386 to give out $802,250 in scholarships. That means that 35% of the $1,238,636-all of which was supposed to go to scholarships for these kids of the fallen-went to Freedom Alliance.

Freedom Alliance spent $5,375,654-or 61% of its total revenue earned in 2008-on expenses, but actually 80% of the total revenue spent and given out for that year. That includes $1,055,791 spent on postage and $925,392 on printing.

She claims that Hannity flies to the events on a private jet and gets a fleet of limousines and lavish suites at hotels when he hosts them, but American Specator says they’ve heard that Hannity pays his own expenses. Since neither of them has first hand information, we can’t know which one is right at this point.

But Hannity had better come clean about this. Even if he’s not getting lavish travel arrangements for the shows, the fact that they’ve got 80 and 90% overhead and so little going for the charity is a huge red flag and suggests a scam. Support the troops, indeed.