Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fraudulenty Charitable

Joe Conason at Salon wonders what Sean Hannity and Oliver North are doing with all that money they’re supposedly raising for charity.

A potentially damaging scandal erupted today that implicates Fox News Channel personalities Sean Hannity and Oliver North in the worst kind of charitable fraud. According to complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission and the IRS, the two right-wing icons have exploited American veterans for personal and partisan gain. The actions filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington accuse Hannity and North of misusing millions of dollars collected by the Freedom Alliance, a charity they promote and control.

Similar accusations were aired recently by right-wing blogger Debbie Schlussel, who complained that the “Freedom Concerts” sponsored by the Freedom Alliance and headlined by Hannity were not donating all proceeds — estimated at more than $10 million — to scholarships for the children of wounded and killed service members, as advertised. But now CREW, which had been investigating the same allegations independently before Schlussel posted her warning, has completed its own probe and filed legal actions before the two federal agencies.

The CREW complaint to the FTC charges that “Hannity and Freedom Concerts have engaged in illegal and deceptive marketing practices by suggesting that all money generated by ticket sales for the Freedom Concerts he sponsors each summer goes to scholarships for children of killed and wounded service members.” Duane Ward, the promoter who heads Premiere Marketing, which produces the concerts, also runs Premiere Speakers Bureau — which exclusively represents Hannity and North. “After staging the concerts, Premiere donates an unknown portion of the concert proceeds to the Freedom Alliance,” according to CREW.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that these two would pull this kind of con. What I find amazing is that they bothered to go to all the trouble of setting up a phony operation at all. They probably would have made as much money if they had just said to their listeners, “Send me money.”