If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then Sean Hannity seems to qualify. For the last few years, Hannity has been promoting “Freedom Concerts” that promise to give college scholarships to the children of killed soldiers and payments to wounded and disabled troops. Musicians who perform at the concerts volunteer their services — as one performer put it “We paid our own way and for all of our costs and expenses to perform because we thought we were helping the troops and their families and that all the money was going to them.” Not to mention the concert-goers, who are spending their hard-earned cash thinking it is going to a good cause.
But if you look at the tax returns of the organization that puts on the concerts, less than 4% (yes, four percent) of the money collected actually went to scholarships or veterans. In order to be considered a reputable charity, over 75% of money collected is supposed to go to the intended recipients, and in fact Hannity himself promised in fundraising letters that 100% of the money donated would go directly to scholarships and wounded soldiers.
So where did the rest of the $48 million go? Hannity himself demands — and gets — a private Gulfstream jet to fly him, his family, and his entourage to the concerts, plus a fleet of Cadillac or Lincoln SUVs, and multiple suites at expensive hotels — all paid for out of the donations. Even more is spent on “consultants” and “expenses”. In other words, these events are big ego parties for Hannity, his family and friends, spending millions of dollars on who knows what, with a few scraps tossed to actual veterans. It is repulsive.
On his radio program last May, Hannity told his listeners “Our new sponsor, Boca Java, just pledged $30,000 to the Freedom Concerts. That will provide a full one-year college scholarship for a kid of a fallen soldier.” But in reality, the charity has never given a full scholarship to anyone. The most it has given out to any student is less than $6,000, and is typically much less. Even Boca Java stopped being a sponsor after last year.
Why does anyone believe these people?
UPDATE: The charity responds.
UPDATE 2: Schlussel responds to the charity’s response, saying their response doesn’t actually answer any of the questions and merely attempts to “cover up” the fraud.
UPDATE 3: Here’s a good summary of the whole thing.
UPDATE 4: The charity behind the “freedom concerts” used to brag on their front page about their four star rating from the charity watchdog group “Charity Navigator” but no longer. Charity Navigator has suddenly downgraded them from four stars to two. The other major charity watchdog group has long given them a low rating.