There’s always someone ready to take advantage of another’s misfortune, often while wearing a pious expression on their faces. Here are two bad charities:
Sean Hannity claims to support our troops, endorsing a charity called Freedom Alliance that supposedly pays tuition for the children of fallen soldiers. What they don’t tell you is that ‘overhead’ sucks up at least 80-90% of the donations. Hannity will be riding a nice limousine to accept a community service award…
Scenar Health is one of those companies that markets a Radio Shack gadget called a Self Controlled Energo Neuro Adaptive Regulator. Just the name gives it away: it looks like quackery to me. Would you believe they are planning to go to Haiti to “help”, and they are asking for donations? Don’t. They are at $0 so far, let’s keep it that way.
I think it would be basic human decency if the con artists could just stay away from areas that need emergency relief, at least.
TB Tabby says
Remember when Pat Robertson was accepting donations for Africans in need? Turns out the money went to his private African diamond mine.
Speaking of bad places to place donations, one cannot miss the worst one of all. the Catholic Church, the star of Condells latest, and may i say greatest ever rant.
I need to get into the charity racket so I can maybe retire someday.
Sorry for the bad grammar, auto-spell-checkers have made me lazy, let me place in some of my worst omissions: ( “:” “T” and “I”)
I’m going to donate a million dollars, but at an 8C dilution
Where exactly can one view a charity’s 990 filings? I’ve been using Charity Navigator, but if this blog is correct I’m worried that CN doesn’t give a reliable picture. It seems all sorts of unsavory things can be squeezed into the “program services” category.
I completely agree that SCENAR appears to be garbage, but I don’t see a Radio Shack connection at all.
Not being defensive, just striving for accuracy.
The world definitely needs fewer quacks, for sure.
A few years ago, I went to a pretty fun magic show in Tahoe, and the magician’s assistant, like all good magician’s assistants, was quite attractive. I figure attractiveness just goes with that job; what are we going to do?
Anyway, it turns out she was also behind some garbage product called “Layers of Light.” Lowered my opinion of her quite a bit…
To put this in perspective, there’s a great site called Charity Navigator that ranks charities based on percent of total functional expenses spent on programs and services… according to them:
However, in fairness I should point out that according to this same website, Freedom Alliance scores very highly… and states that Freedom Alliance spends approximately 81% of its revenues on “Program Expenses”, or the programs and services they exist to provide…
Does anyone else have competing data? I’d like to be able to figure out what the real story is there…
We already knew Sean Hannity was a fraud, but I thought it was mostly about politics and money. Now we see it’s also charity fraud. I should have known. Hannity came cruising into California last year to exploit the farmers’ water shortage. He used a corporate-sponsored “astroturf” rally as a backdrop and claimed the multi-year drought was the fault of liberals and environmentalists.
Sean Hannity is fake from A to Z.
The Hannity charity might be worse than what is stated. There are two companies involved, and the paper work is cloudy. The Freedom Concerts hosts the the concerts and collects fees from the tickets. The tickets sell between 75~125 dollars. Initially, out of that only 4 dollars per ticket would go to the charity Freedom Alliance. (It is not clear if this has changed.) Of the 4 dollars that goes to the Freedom Alliance between 80~90% goes to overhead. So it is possible that out of a $125 dollar ticket, that less than a dollar will make it to help the families of the soldiers. The accounting is messy, because the Freedom Alliance counts funds used for mailings and lobbying as funds spent to help the soldiers, and they have not been clear about how much of the ticket price now goes to Freedom Alliance. There is also a large amount that has gone into a fund for future use. But it is unlikely that anything more than 10% of the ticket sales actually go to help the soldiers.
But with a man with the moral fibers of Ollie North in charge, we got to give the benefit of the doubt.
The stated mission of “Freedom Alliance”:
Hmmm… sounds an awful lot like the Human Fund: Money for People.
Not to spoil the fun, but it looks like the majority of the funding does not go to ‘overhead.’ Apparently they’re building up a trust fund which will then pay out scholarships to the students (most of whom will be attending college in 10-20 years).
Debbie Schlussel’s entire post is based on claims which appear to be unsupported by the IRS tax files. Another commenter here mentioned that the charity ranks as spending 81% of its funds on program expenses (according to Charity Navigator).
David Frum’s site has a post which addresses each of Schlussel’s accusations in turn:
The case he makes against Schlussel is convicing. Here’s an excerpt:
I, too, am a godless liberal, but Schlussel’s claims seemed to skirt the conspiratorial. Even when it comes to a snake like Hannity, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
The heart of the con is that there are two companies, a for-profit company Freedom Concerts and the charity Freedom Alliance.
Schlussel Keeps Up Attack on Hannity
Follow Up on Hannity’s Charity
Debbie Schlusell is a Coulter wannabe who is not a reliable source of information. She’s on the Hannity story like a dog on a bone and won’t let go. I hope she’s right for once, but her journalistic credibility is nil.
Still, it’s nice to see the right eating their own.
As much as I dislike Hannity, the fact that this expose comes from Debbie “Debbie Does Derangement” Schlussel gives me pause. Which nutcase to believe?
Ah, the SCENAR Therapy site is setting off multiple b.s. alerts. Just from scrolling down the first page, I get:
“electrical energy corresponding to the body’s own signals” (huh?)
“stimulating the body’s own healing reserves”(uh oh)
“Both Eastern and Western physicists were encouraged to develop energy medicine at a time when massive funding was poured into research for the American and Russian space programmes” (uh huh)
The “research” appears to be minimal, and confined to one country, even though it’s been around a while.
Very high success rate, coupled with a huge variety of unconnected ailments it’s supposed to be good for.
Primarily useful for perception of pain — just like a placebo.
“it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a biofeedback device in the United States.” (big deal, means nothing)
Links on the side to naturopathy and dietary supplements. (ok, that does it)
I am a layperson, with no educational or professional expertise in this area. But the tools of skepticism do allow me to detect Smell of Rat here.
Except that this is public information, available to everyone. Which means it’s not a con.
Freedom Concerts is a for-profit concert promoter, which gives a portion of its funds to Freedom Alliance.
This is no different than the Starbucks/Gap/etc “Red” campaign. It doesn’t give a whole lot to the charity, but it is on the level.
The proof of that will be if Lance Armstrong (Team Radio Shack) uses one. The way he’s going now, he’ll need one. (It might have a placebo effect.)
Givewell.net does an excellent job of evaluating the effectiveness of charities.
I dislike Hannity too, but don’t get so excited. The returns really are not that unusual. Most of their expenses are in fact program expenses – those that directly relate to their non-profit purposes such as soliciting donors, fundraisers, etc. There is actually very little overhead and administration by comparison to other charities. They are spending very little on actual scholarships, but they appear to be purchasing securities to create investment income. I’m a long time reader of Pharyngula, but please corroborate information before you become so incensed. Even as an atheist, it’s impossible to know and understand everything. Most people can’t read financial statements, let alone governmental/not for profit statements or returns, so get over it and shut up. The journalists behind this story are probably the same people engaged in the ridiculous oversimplification and hagiography of the financial crisis.
The reason the Freedom Alliance scores so highly on the program activity quota is that they count their mailings as political activism, what is part of their program activities. So both sides are right, they spend very little on veterans etc. and they spend a lot on program activities. The FA just doesn’t consider the veterans being the most important part of their program activities, something the donors might be overlooking.
I looked through the tax forms and depending on the year, they do spend 80-96% on their overhead mostly on things like “consultants” and “advisors.”
Just to put this in persepctive… the United Way, which is the biggest charity in the US, spends about 25% on overhead, and they’re taking heat for having that much. Red Cross (8th largest) is around 10%.
To have an overhead of 80-96% makes you either incredibly inept, or it’s a scam. Going by the honesty Hannity has displayed in the past, I doubt he’s being honest here either.
Hmmm… this conflicts with other data I’ve read and with the data gathered by sites that evaluate charities.
Can you provide a link to the data to which you are referring? Maybe I’m looking at the wrong stuff…
btw the scenar health pledgie site can be flagged as a scam. It also looks as though it may be dead anyway as HelenGracie, who appears to have set it up, is no longer a registered user. That said, you can still go through the mechanics of pledging and donating with PayPal although I didn’t go all the way, of course, so it may fail further on.
Bullshit. That’s not on the level. It’s deceptive. A series of events billed as helping Freedom Alliance which works solely on making it look like the money’s going to charity, wHen the intent is that most of it goes into someone’s pocket?
Please. Don’t make me laugh.
And that still doesn’t excuse that Freedom Alliance still has the 80-96% overhead. That’s independant of the Freedom Concerts. That’s based solely on Freedom Alliance’s tax forms.
The best you can say is that Hannity’s hands are “clean,” deceptive marketing not withstanding, and at worst you can still claim that Freedom Alliance is bullshit.
Then why the hell are they 501(c)(3)… a educational/charity organisation? That’s what they claim their are on their website. If most of their money goes to political activism, that’s neither educational nor charitible. Why the fuck are they tax exempt?
Sure, I can, Celtic.
It’s on the Freedom Alliance website in the “About Us” section here:
The 990 tax forms (the ones for the 501(c)(3) companies) for several years are available for download right on that page.
the overhead does seem rather high and it does seem that they are “selling” the charity as one that is primarily aimed at the children of veterans while its actual stated aim sounds more like nationalism politics.
I would be interested to see just who these consultants are that get the lions share of the money.
the whole thing brings to mind the tricksy stuff that finally got Tom Delay by the tail. He too I think had some funny stuff with charities besides fund raising
This looks fishy:
Calvin Coolidge, Executive Director
After reading through them again, I noticed that the bulk of the money actually went to printing, shipping, and publishing… at about $3 million.
The consultants only total about $1 million.
Even if they’re aren’t a scam outright, they’re a poor excuse for a charity.
I hate yahooID,
Die Anyway says
From SCENAR’s own website…”it works on the principles of acupuncture and reflex zones.”
Shipping costs were high because of:
From this site: http://www.frumforum.com/hannitized-is-sanitized
I should add that I’m in no way trying to exonerate the slimy Sean Hannity. It just seems that Debbie Schlussel is being deliberately misleading in most of her claims about the charity.
The Other Ian says
I just looked at their 2008 990. Their program service expenses were $5,317,970, and their total expenses were $6,745,717. That’s a ratio of 78.8%, which is generally considered good as I understand it.
The confusion seems to be that they only actually paid $802,250 in tuition grants. But you have to realize that they also run other programs, including “public policy research and education”, and troop appreciation events.
Also, consider the recipients of the college scholarship program. Although it’s supposedly for the children of any veteran killed or permanently disabled in a combat mission, I get the impression that it’s mostly for the children of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of those aren’t college age yet. I would expect that over the next 20 years, their spending ratio will change to reflect that.
It’s allowed as long as it’s conducted in a non-partisan manner. That seems unlikely to be the case, but I haven’t seen anything demonstrating that it’s not.
If you look at the website, freedomconcerts.com/
I wouldn’t compare this with Starbucks and other charity campaigns by known companies. Because Starbucks and these other companies are not charities, nor do they advertise themselves as primarily a charity. Freedom Concerts on the other hand advertises itself as a primarily a charity. It makes it appear that the sole goal of this events is to directly help veterans. I am sure that they are smart enough to have covered all of the legal bases. But they are still playing upon peoples patriotic sense to support disabled troops to make a buck.
It may not be illegal, but it’s still a misleading. There’s a huge gap between being legal and being honest.
I have no idea when the comment was made, but I like what someone with the handle The Thinker commented on the SC
ENARAMMER pledge site:
And as mentioned above, you can mark this as a scam.
Yes, because the Red campaign doesn’t play upon people’s sympathy to help out people with aids:
Oh wait, this is what every charity does. They’re trying to make people feel as though they should support the cause of the charity!
I think everyone should give to charities. I don’t think that people should buy something for themselves – be it a coffee, Gap t-shirt, or concert ticket – and think that it’s the equivalent of charitable giving. It may be marginally better than buying a ticket to a concert that donates none of its proceeds to charity, though.
So let’s put here the numbers from their last 990 form:
(in thousand dollars)
Total revenues : 8,781
Total expenses : 6,745
Income : 2,035
Details of expenses
Total grants paid : 1,370
Salaries, compensation, employee benefits : 1,436
Fundraising expenses : 945
Other expenses : 3,867
(of which 1,980 for postage delivery & printing)
Expenses allocated to programs : 5,317
a) 2,324 for “public policy and education” : research and analysis on public policy matters , especially those issues which impact America’s national sovereingty and defense, foreign policy, American history, and the role of Government generally. Publication of policy papers, newspaper columns, grassroots communications, seminars, conferences…)
b) 1,277 for “support our troops” program of which 553 in grants paid to veterans
c) 1,238 for “scholarship fund” of which 802 in grants paid to 167 students sons and daughters of “American heroes”
Only 15% of revenues are really paid out in grants to veterans and their families. The rest ie 85% are income, leaflets, salaries, fundraisers, and political activism most probably of the far right libertarian pro war sort that Hannity is so fond of.
fundraising fees : 71 (not 945)
Doesn’t change the result though
Justcheck their latest newsletter:
1. Laura Igraham, Oliver North, Sean Hannity, well known right wing loons.
2. (Republican) Virginia State Senator Ralph K. Smith Elected Chairman of the Freedom Alliance Board of Directors
3. Join Oliver North and Newt Gingrich on the
2009 Freedom Cruise and Conference:
See, they don’t even try to hide the fact that this is nothing more than a partisan right wing activist group.
This is from Media Matters
No doubt, Hannity’s money went to the recent Republican hanky-panty. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/maybe_it_will_loosen_them_up_a.php
Scams such as Hannity’s have been very popular for at least 40 years. Anyone see those hospitals which were run as “non-profit”? The scamsters who own them sure rake in the money – see, the hospital may be not for profit and meet all the legal requirements, but that has nothing to do with how much some overpaid managers get.
Over 10 years ago some furious friends from a small band told me they’ll never work a gig for a “charity concert” again because the money doesn’t go where people think it goes, so for the rest of the professional career of that band they just arranged gigs at various pubs and donated what they made.
However, if you think Hannity is bad, just have a good look at any religious missionary group. Over the years I’ve met people who were bragging about how much they make – sometimes they are paid to look after the welfare of children in the famnilies they are trying to sucker and are paid up to $300 per month per child. Some of these god-folks invent non-existent children, and as for the real children they spend about $3 per child per month and pocket the rest. That’s good ol’ christian charity for you. I don’t know how common such thieves are within missionary groups, but they certainly exist. Hell, take a look at ‘Mother’ Theresa.
Helen Gracie says
Well given you are talking about me – I would like to introduce myself.
At the suggestion of a well meaning friend – I briefly opened a pledgie account to enable my friends to contribute to next week’s volunteer visit to Haiti. It appears that there is widespread distrust of this type of activity – and because I have no ulterior motive – I immediately disabled it. Once on the ground in Port Au Prince, we will assess which charities are doing effective support and provide links directly to them for our friends to support if they choose to.
Just wanted to set the record straight!
'Tis Himself, OM says
Not only are we doubtful about your charitable work, we’re pretty sure that your SCENAR is a piece of (how shall I put this nicely?) dumbass wackaloon chicanery.
Crudely Wrott says
This is so out of the past. I’m having veja du all over again. “Russian doctors and scientists . . . product of space race . . . Star Trek device.” Whoa. Wicked retro.
Russian doctors and scientists once kept the heads of dogs alive without benefit of the rest of the dog’s bodies. I recall they actually transplanted the head of one dog onto the body of another. Hailed as breakthrough medical science at the time. No word yet from the dogs.
Tang, Teflon and No Touch Therapy? Please. The first two are actually useful and actually part of the space race.
With a nod to the calendar, Star Trek is not yet. And using a popular cultural reference to promote a scam is just as cheap as using one to promote damn near anything else. It is a cheap appeal to the lower brain and any idiot can do it.
The talent to stir people up by fondling their, ah, less desirable proclivities is indication of neither cleverness nor depth. It is the easy way. Children do it to their parents every day, for crying out loud.
I hope someone who understands how to test these infernal machines manages to get their hands on some and actually, you know, subject them to scrutiny. Deep scrutiny.
Crudely Wrott says
No, not “less desirable proclivities.” I was in mid thought. If I could write it all over again it might read, “proclivities that are frequently acted upon quickly and seldom given more than a moments reflection if any at all.”
That’s more like it.
*always in a hurry to press Submit only to submit to after-the-post editing. anyone else have that problem?*
Helen Gracie says
If you would like to have a discussion about the science of this device – there is a conference in Sydney; Australia in July. There is another in Bulgaria in September. In 2011 there will be one in the USA.
You are welcome to attend and have this revolutionary technology explained by Professor Tarakanov; the head of the Russian research Institute which oversees the many studies already completed and the 10 currently underway in independent Russian Universities and hospitals.
There are also plans underway at an Australian hospital to prove efficacy in emergency medicine. I attended the National Pain Summit in our Parliament House earlier this month and the SCENAR THERAPISTS ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALASIA is considered a stakeholder in developing the Australian National Pain Strategy along with 130 other organizations.
You need to get your information from the right source. The internet is not the best place unfortunately.
Crudely Wrott says
Oh, don’t I wish I could.
Helen honey, “I have answers to all your concerns but can only tell you at so and so or when you pay money” is a big scam red flag.
If you want details why, I’ll tell you on June 31st at The Sydney Opera house.
Helen Gracie says
It seems that you are not accepting my challenge to become educated about this subject. Granted – international travel is expensive and in these days of advanced technology – surely not necessary?
Under what conditions can we create a forum that is unbiased, independent and does not require significant expenditure on anyone’s part to discuss this with the true experts who can answer any skeptics questions?
I would welcome such an opportunity!
Matt Penfold says
Why not just tell us where we can read about the principles in a peer reviewed journal.
You can cite such articles I hope. Not being able to do so would indicate, at the very least, massive incompetence on your part.
Helen Gracie says
Helen Gracie is using this quackery in Haiti.
Scenar Health – Medical Cult? http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5393