March 18, 2010, - 5:46 am

Sean Hannity’s Freedom CONcert Scam: Almost None of Charity’s $ Went to Injured Troops, Kids of Fallen Troops; G5s for Vannity?

By Debbie Schlussel

***  UPDATE, 4/5/10:  Responding to Schlussel Expose, Charity Navigator Downgrades Hannity Charity: Freedom Alliance Rating Now Only 2 Stars (”Needs Improvement”) ***

**** Check out my UPDATES to this story: 03/25/10 – Big Business: Who Owns the Freedom Concerts? How Sean Hannity’s Private Jets, Luxe SUVs, Suites Were Paid & 03/24/10 – Semantics of Vannity: New Hannity Soldiers Scam – “Buy My Book, (Non-Existent) Profits Go to Troops Charity” ****

****03/19/10:  SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE: My Response to Freedom Alliance’s/Oliver North’s Weak “Non-Response” & New Lies  ****

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.

freedomconcerthannity

In fact, less than 20%–and in two recent years, less than 7% and 4%, respectively–of the money raised by Freedom Alliance went to these causes, while millions of dollars went to expenses, including consultants and apparently to ferry the Hannity posse of family and friends in high style. And, despite Hannity’s statements to the contrary on his nationally syndicated radio show, few of the children of fallen soldiers got more than $1,000-$2,000, with apparently none getting more than $6,000, while Freedom Alliance appears to have spent tens of thousands of dollars for private planes.  Moreover, despite written assurances to donors that all money raised would go directly to scholarships for kids of the fallen heroes and not to expenses, has begun charging expenses of nearly $500,000 to give out just over $800,000 in scholarships.

In February 2009, a well-known conservative writer sent me this, about a friend at FOX News:

The guy went on to tell me about Hannity’s “Freedom Concerts,” which are staged across the country with the proceeds going to children of slain soldiers. Of course, as the guy tells it, there’d be a lot more money every concert to go to the cause if Hannity didn’t demand–and get–use of a Gulfstream 5 plane to fly him and his family/entourage to the concerts; a “fleet” (that’s the word the guy used) of either Cadillac or Lincoln SUVs for him and his family/entourage; and several suites at really expensive hotels for him and his family/entourage. The promoter apparently values Hannity’s star demands at well over $200,000 per event. The source says he heard that Oliver North pulled Hannity aside at one of the concerts and told him that this had to stop. But that may mean that, from now on, Hannity has to fly on a G4 instead of a G5, gets only a few luxury SUVs, and two or three suites.

North is the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

I began investigating these claims, and lo and behold, I discovered that Freedom Alliance gives very little money to the children of slain troops to pay for college and even less to wounded troops.  The stories of injuries to troops and how much Freedom Alliance gives them–$200 for a soldier from a poor neighborhood who lost three limbs–is heartbreaking.  Soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, severe wounds to the face from disfiguring burns and explosions, and multiple amputations got $1,000 or less, with only a handful of exceptions.

The tax forms available to the public for the Freedom Alliance–for the years 2006-2008–paint a tragic story, a story of a charity that makes gazillions and spends very little for the purposes it claims, a charity that spends millions more on its small staff and crony consultants than it ever gives in scholarships to the children of the fallen or severely injured troops or in aid to the injured troops themselves.  While Hannity’s Freedom Concerts take in millions, only a few hundred thousand go to the claimed intended recipients.

Over a year ago, when I began looking into this story, I contacted both Sean Hannity and the Freedom Alliance seeking comment and an accounting for where the money went.  Both declined to answer any of my questions.  Hannity refused to respond to an inquiry I sent to his personal private e-mail address asking him about the lavish expenses described in the e-mail above.

Freedom Alliance press secretary Alan Moore scheduled an interview for me with Freedom Alliance president Thomas Kilgannon, who in the past used Freedom Alliance resources to promote a book he wrote on the United Nations.  But when Moore asked me what the interview would be about and I answered truthfully, the interview was not granted, and my calls to him were never returned thereafter.  I told him I’d be asking Mr. Kilgannon about the expenses paid for Hannity and about the paltry percentage of Freedom Alliance funds actually going to the kids of fallen troops, to severely injured troops, and to anything other than expenses, consultants, and printing.  I wanted to know why Freedom Alliance had spent $60,000 for “aviation services” in 2006.

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. In 2006, Freedom Alliance gave only $1,000 to a soldier from Bay City, Michigan, whom the charity says was in the following condition:

Face was blown up and lost sight in one eye.

And that $1,000 was relatively generous, when you consider this soldier from Romulus, Michigan, whom Freedom Alliance only gave $200:

SM [serviceman] was involved in roadside bomb incident in Iraq, which caused loss of both legs and left arm.

Romulus is a mostly Black Detroit suburb, which is one of the poorest cities in Michigan and in America. Freedom Alliance gave this brave soldier roughly $67 per limb. That’s sickening.

So is the fact that this soldier, from Alexandria, Virginia, also only got $200 from Freedom Alliance:

SM was wounded in Iraq by an IED explosion.  Lost right arm and severe shrapnel wounds to upper body and face.

Also appalling is the fact that in each year’s tax returns soldiers described as having brain trauma injuries, multiple amputated limbs, and severe burns over most of their bodies get a few hundred bucks each from Freedom Alliance and in almost every case, no more than $1,000.

That year, while fat-cat consultants and expenses took millions of Freedom Alliance’s money, seriously wounded troops to whom Freedom Alliance donated received a pathetic average of $785 each and the college student kids of the fallen got a paltry average of $2,943 toward tuition. Yes, out of millions raised that year by Sean Hannity at his Freedom Concerts, only $309,000 was given out in scholarships to 105 students, and only $110,703.82 was given to the wounded soldiers.

Freedom Alliance’s 2007 tax returns aren’t much better. Out of $12,459,317 it raised that year, only $895,347–or just 7%–went to seriously wounded troops and scholarships for fallen troops. 53% went to expenses, including $1,464,627 in postage and $1,151,428 in printing. $604,995 went to “professional fees” and “consultants.” Out of millions paid for Freedom Concert tickets and raised in fundraisers by Hannity listeners, only $596,500 went to college scholarships for soldiers who died in battle, and only $299,897 went to horribly injured troops. 208 student children of the fallen got an average of $2,868 apiece for tuition, though many got only $1,000 or less. 382 soldiers with serious injuries got an average of $785 each.

And, again, that year, the amounts given to soldiers with such grave injuries is despicably tiny. This soldier, from Killeen, Texas, got only $500 from Freedom Alliance:

SM was wounded in Iraq on June 18, 2007 in Digula Province, Baquba, Iraq. An IED exploded on the truck, he took shrapnel to the face, which cut off a piece of his nose. Also had shrapnel in throat and cheeks, which cut open his face and the inside of his throat.

This soldier, from Brady, Texas, also received just $500 from Freedom Alliance:

While serving in Baghdad Iraq, SM was hit with an IED blast. Sustained disfigurement, blindness, and superficial burns on face, hearing loss to right ear, TBI, peppered shrapnel to the face and right upper extremity.

And then, there are the 2008 Freedom Alliance tax forms, which were signed in November 2009 and filed only recently.  That year, Freedom Alliance took in $8,781,431 in revenue and gave $1,060,27