Thanks for this one to Rick Rottman, who posted the story at his great blog Bent Corner earlier today.
Since 2003 Sean Hannity has promoted an annual series of Freedom Concerts. These are hyper-patriotic events that blend musical performances by the likes of Lee Greenwood, Charlie Daniels, Michael W. Smith, and other acts you might also catch at your local state fair this summer, with conservative political rally speeches by CPAC all-stars like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Mark Levin. (Sound like the most awesome thing, ever?) The Freedom Concerts are held to raise money for the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, a charity founded by Oliver North to help send the children of seriously wounded or killed members of the American military to college.
The involvement of the iniquitous Col. North aside, it sounds like a wonderful cause, a cause which any reasonable person might feel compelled to support to their fullest ability. What a shame, then, that Hannity has been using his Freedom Concerts to steal millions of dollars meant for the college educations of the children of the men and women he disingenuously calls “our fallen heroes.”
This from Debbie Schlussel:
For the last several years, Sean Hannity and the Freedom Alliance “charity” have conducted “Freedom Concerts” across America. They’ve told you that they are raising money to pay for the college tuition of the children of fallen soldiers and to pay severely wounded war vets. And on Friday Night, Hannity will be honored with an award for this “Outstanding Community Service by a Radio Talk Show Host” at Talkers Magazine’s convention.
But it’s all a huge scam.
Debbie Schlussel, I feel compelled to tell you in case you don’t already know, has also recently claimed that Tim Burton’s new film of Alice in Wonderland is actually militant feminist propaganda, ridiculed President Obama for taking a few minutes to fill in a March Madness bracket, and complained about the Girl Scouts teaching children about climate change and responsible environmental stewardship. In her own way, she’s just as much a right-wing nutter as Hannity. The difference is, she’s smart enough, and honest enough, to see that her side would be far better off if it cut “the humble Han-man” loose.
Schlussel claims that less than 20% of the total funds raised through the Freedom Alliance — and a far lower percentage in the last two years — have actually gone to benefit wounded veterans and their families. Most of the $48,000,000 raised since 2003 has gone to expenses, including the hiring of private jets and fleets of Cadillac SUVs to transport Hannity and his entourage to and from the Freedom Concert events. Hannity’s involvement reportedly costs the Freedom Alliance $200,000 per concert.
This is the same Sean Hannity who has repeatedly criticized Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi for flying in private jets, by the way. Just so long as that’s clear.
More from Schlussel:
Keep in mind that a charity is considered reputable if no more than 25% of its revenue goes to expenses and no less than 75% of it goes to the intended charity recipients. Given that, Freedom Alliance’s balance sheets are embarrassing in their shamelessness.
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.
That’s especially heartbreaking when you compare the hundreds of thousands consultants got and the millions spent on printing and postage to the outrageously small amounts given to wounded soldiers.
Outrageously small payments that seldom exceeded $1,000 per recipient, and never exceeded $6,000. This is the sort of racket Hannity, North, and the proud, patriotic chaps at the Freedom Alliance are running.
I’ve employed various superlatives in the past to describe the major figures of the right-wing media; Mark Levin is the shrillest, Glenn Beck is the dumbest, etc. But if this story is true (and Schlussel’s research seems sound), Hannity is worst of them all. He is a liar, a demagogue, a peddler of distortion and misinformation — but so are most of the rest of his colleagues on right-wing radio. But he’s also stealing millions of dollars from the families of American soldiers, and using the guise of charity and patriotism to do it.
Hannity’s a Roman Catholic. I hope he knows he’s going to Hell for this.