A few years ago Sean Hannity organized and held a series of concerts across the country called “Freedom Concerts” which were designed as fundraisers to provide the children of American military personnel college scholarships.
“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.”
These figures go to the heart of the corruption behind Conservative Inc. of which Hannity is a boardroom member. Most of what is raised from people all across the country for causes and political activism, even charity as it seems, basically goes to the people raising the money, not to whom it was intended. Thus as in the case of the “Freedom Concerts”, nearly a million of what was raised went to “consultants” and an “advisor”. The scholarships’ cut of the $10 million raised was a paltry $400,000 according to these figures. So all those who attended the concerts, your money basically went to all the efforts to put the concerts together and pay the people involved in doing so, instead of the people they were intended to help. Often times this is the case when it comes to fundraising for so-called conservative causes as this writer points out:
“The conservative movement ceased early to be a movement and became a collection of professional fundraisers. Having achieved “victory” when Ronald Reagan was elected, they did nothing except relieve millions of widows of millions in retirement savings. Conservatives have accomplished virtually nothing after 40 years of sedulous if sotted activity in the Republic’s capital.
Some of the shenanigans I was involved in were so pointless as to be comical. They included staging impromptu street protests against liberals, raising money for the Nicaraguan contras and Angolan anti-communist rebels and running a campaign to support then Col. Oliver North after Iran-Contra blew up in his face. But I still have photographs with Angolan anti-communist rebel Jonas Savimbi and reputed Salvadoran death-squad leader Robert D’Aubuisson!
I worked at the Conservative Political Action Conference during the Reagan years, but never met the Gipper himself. The operators who ran Young American for Freedom, which then cosponsored the event, wouldn’t let the unwashed, lowly staff members into the high-dollar reception, where big donors to the cause met and shook hands with Reagan and otherwise rubbed elbows with the likes of Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese (now one of the signers of the Mount Vernon Statement).
CPAC then was and now is less an intellectual exercise than a massive fund-raising bazaar—not only for its sponsors, the American Conservative Union and, formerly, Young Americans for Freedom, but also for the many exhibitors who erected booths to distribute literature and sell their wares. At night, conservatives-from-the-waist-up went in for drunken debauchery and wild parties. The lubricants of alcohol and putative political power generously applied, evenings likely ended in some serious domestic drilling. At least they did something about the energy crisis.
1984, I attended the Republican National Convention, where Frank Sinatra ignored me, NBC newsman John Chancellor waved hello from his skybox, and Jack Kemp was escorted by a pack of earnest and fetching young men. I even ran into an anchorman from a home-town television station that I had watched since I was a kid. Anyway, YAF and other conservative outfits scattered their literature and clanged their cymbals, which mostly involved promoting the names and faces of the unctuous grifters who ran them. Otherwise, they accomplished precisely nothing except to spend donors’ money on drinking and strip clubs. Well, maybe they spent some of their own money on the strip club.
The beginning of the end of that YAF administration began when a group of disaffected board directors burst into a meeting of other directors, with tape recorders and extension cords at the ready to record the proceedings. They staged a coup d’etat, using charges of criminal financial impropriety. That scandal landed in the brand new Washington Times (The Moon Street Journal, as a friend called it), which disclosed the embezzlement of funds that included the lease of a Mercedes Benz for the organization’s executive director.
But other Beltway conservative organizations operated the same way: They raised tons of money by scaring blue-haired old ladies with the communist threat, then spent the ill-gotten booty on salaries, internecine warfare, more direct mail and, of course, eating at The Palm.
One amusing and frequently used mail tactic urged recipients to sign postcards protesting impending legislation or a new government policy. The target of the solicitation then returned said postcard to the organization—donation included, hopefully—which in turn delivered sacks of these things to a congressman, who was supposed to be sufficiently impressed by or terrified of the “grass roots” to do its bidding.
Naturally, what really happened was this: The honcho of the organization got a picture with the congressman accepting the mail for the organization’s newsletter, which donors would read and thus believe their message had been heard. The honcho then landed at Bullfeathers, The Monocle or some other Capitol Hill “eatery” for an expensive, and perhaps boozy, lunch or dinner.
Meanwhile, the congressman got down to business with the postcards. He read one, promptly had the rest tossed in the Capitol incinerator and went back to molesting the secretaries and congressional pages. (This is hyperbole, of course.)
Were the “Freedom Concerts” a part of the same kind of scam that has infected the “movement” for the past 30 years? It remains to be seen. But before you make your next donation to your favorite “cause” you may want to ask first where the money is going and how its being spent, otherwise it could very well wind in some stripper’s G-string in D.C. while you’re out beyond the Beltway believing it’s helping a soldier’s kid go to college.