Sunday, March 26, 2006

Know Your "Charities"

WaPo: Red Cross, Humane Society Under Investigation

The Louisiana attorney general has launched inquiries into two of the country's best-known charities -- the American Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States -- after receiving complaints that they misused some of the millions of dollars they raised in the fall to help the human and non-human victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr. plans to announce tomorrow that he is looking into allegations that Red Cross volunteers diverted money and supplies meant for hurricane victims in New Orleans, spokeswoman Kris Wartelle said. And the attorney general's office has begun an inquiry into whether the Humane Society spent the money it raised after Hurricane Katrina appropriately.

The Red Cross said yesterday that it has dismissed three of its volunteers who had been involved in food and shelter operations in the stricken city after the storm. The volunteers "have been relieved of their duties" after it was determined that "allegations involving waste and abuse were substantial enough to warrant their immediate removal," said a senior Red Cross official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.


Yesterday, Red Cross volunteer Jerome Nickerson Jr., a Baltimore lawyer who was asked by the Red Cross in the fall to team with another volunteer to investigate complaints of misuse of supplies and cash, said he found numerous problems in the disaster-relief operation.

He said they found "rogue warehouses" filled with Red Cross supplies that they believed were being sold. Also, some disaster staffers were ordering suspiciously large volumes of such supplies as cooking oil, coffee and canned food from Red Cross warehouses for areas in which they weren't needed. Large numbers of prepared meals were also being ordered and, in at least once instance, were delivered to local restaurants, Nickerson said. Red Cross volunteers were also using multiple debit cards loaded with thousands of dollars in Red Cross funds. "It was completely out of control," he said.

Nickerson said other Red Cross disaster volunteers and staffers interfered with their investigation, corrupting computer files and refusing to give them documents.

But in December, after Nickerson and his partner, Michael Wolters, a Wisconsin security guard, presented their findings to Red Cross officials in Louisiana, and told them they wanted to investigate further, they were sent home.

"It was very disappointing," Nickerson said.

Of course, the Red Cross isn't really an independent charity. It's a quasi-governmental organization, and in this era of corrupt Republicans, it's run by corrupt Republicans.

From the

The right-wing, scandal-ridden “charity” that isn’t really a charity
The truth about the Red Cross

People who think of the Red Cross as a “private charity” would be shocked to discover its actual legal status.

Congress incorporated the Red Cross to act under “government supervision.” Eight of the 50 members of its board of governors are appointed by the president of the United States, who also serves as honorary chairperson. Currently, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are members of the board of governors.

This unique, quasi-governmental status allows the Red Cross to purchase supplies from the military and use government facilities--military personnel can actually be assigned to duty with the Red Cross. Last year, the organization received $60 million in grants from federal and state governments. However, as one federal court noted, “A perception that the organization is independent and neutral is equally vital.”

The leading administrators and officials of the Red Cross are almost always drawn from the corporate boardroom or the military high command. Among the past chairs and presidents of the Red Cross are seven former generals or admirals and one ex-president.

The current president Marty Evans is a retired rear admiral and a director of the investment firm Lehman Brothers Holdings. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the chair of the Red Cross, is also CEO of Pace Communications, whose clients include United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and AT&T--a group of companies known for their vicious treatment of workers.

The Red Cross has become particularly tied up with the Republican Party in recent decades. Both McElveen-Hunter and Evans are Bush appointees--for her part, McElveen-Hunter has donated over $130,000 to the Republican Party since 2000.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THOUGH IT is technically a nonprofit, the Red Cross is run more like profit-hungry corporation than what most people think a “charity” would act like. The most deadly example of this was the Red Cross’ criminally negligent response to the early stages of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

The Red Cross has been for many decades, and remains today, the largest blood bank in the country. In 1982 and especially 1983, when it would have possible to contain the outbreak--or at least stop the spread of the disease through infusions of infected blood--major blood banks, led by the Red Cross, opposed national testing of blood for HIV.

The Red Cross’ opposition was based on the financial cost. As investigative journalist Judith Reitman wrote in her book Bad Blood: “It appeared it would be cheaper to pay off infected blood recipients, should they pursue legal action, than to up the Red Cross blood supply.”

Previous post: Please, Give to Charity. Just Not the Red Cross (Sept. 25, 2005)

No comments: