Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Follow Up on Hannity’s Charity

The Freedom Alliance, the charity Sean Hannity works with that has been accused by Debbie Schlussel of being a scam that only spends a small portion of the money raised on financial support of wounded soldiers and scholarships for the children of soldiers, has responded — kind of — to those charges.

They released a statement calling Schlussel’s claims “malicious allegations” and “vicious smears,” First, here is what they say about Hannity:

The blog posting accuses our friend Sean Hannity of personally benefiting from Freedom Alliance. This 1. 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.

If this is true — and I have no reason to believe it’s not — then Hannity is absolved of the most serious accusation against him personally. However, if the other allegations about the group’s paltry record of doing what it says it’s going to do are vindicated — and it looks to me like they are — then he still bears responsibility for lending his name to a group that doesn’t really deliver on their promises.

Here’s what the group says about those allegations:

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.

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 Management

This is a straw man. Schlussel did not accuse them of not spending enough money on “program activities.” She accused them of spending far more on overhead and expenses than they do on their stated purpose, which is giving financial grants to wounded soldiers and scholarships to their children.

Their use of the term “program activities” is quite slippery here, because if you look at their 2008 Form 990, that figure includes most of their overhead and expenses. Of that $5,317,970, only $1,370,063 was spent on “grants and other assistance to individuals in the US.” The rest is for postage, fundraisers, payroll and so forth.

The organization’s total revenue for 2008 was $8,781,431. That means they spent 15.6% of revenue on actual help for the soldiers and their families. And that was a big boost over the previous two years, when the rates were even lower. Looks to me like those “vicious smears” are spot on. No legitimate charity has 85% expenses and only 15% paid out.