Freedom Concerts, Sean Hannity's scholarship charity for the children of fallen soldiers, has violated its charitable tax status, according to a Washington advocacy group.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleges that Hannity's Freedom Concerts has "engaged in deceptive and illegal marketing practices by suggesting that all concert ticket sale revenue goes directly to scholarships for children of killed and wounded service members." CREW and veterans group VoteVets have filed complaints with the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission about Freedom Concerts, Freedom Alliance, and Lt. Col. Oliver North.
The two groups hosted a joint press conference Monday to discuss their complaints. VoteVets Chair Jon Soltz questioned Freedom Concert's priorities. "It's appalling and absurd that... 80-90% of the money [raised] is going toward overhead, not scholarships," Soltz said.
"They've made statements that 100% of [all] funds go toward scholarships," said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of CREW. "This is the kind of deceptive marketing the FTC looks poorly upon."
Freedom Concerts events have been organized by Premier Marketing, according to conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel and CREW. Premier Marketing is operated by Duane Ward, the speaking engagement agent for both Sean Hannity and Oliver North, according to Schlussel.
According to CREW, Freedom Concerts donates some money to Freedom Alliance, an organization founded by North. He is now the group's honorary chairman.
A little more than a week ago, Schlussel called out Hannity's charity for what she described as a "huge scam":
...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.
Freedom Alliance denied Schlussel's "false and malicious allegations" in a statement to The American Spectator:
Freedom Alliance has never provided planes, hotels, cars, limos, or anything else to Sean. Sean gets nothing from Freedom Alliance except our gratitude for his personal generosity and for all he has done to help the troops and our organization. We have never had to ask Sean for anything, he always generously offers his help before we have a chance to ask him. But to be clear Sean pays for all his own transportation, hotels, and all related expenses for himself and his family and friends and staff, which over the years has added up to tens of thousands of dollars. He does not use any Freedom Alliance Funds or Concert funds in any way, period.
Last week, Media Matters reported that Schlussel's figures "check out," but witheld judgement because Freedom Alliance's mission is broader than just scholarships.
Freedom Alliance President Tom Kilgannon defended the group on Monday in an email to The Huffington Post:
"Today, Freedom Alliance was attacked with baseless complaints. There is absolutely no merit to the scurrilous charges launched against Freedom Alliance from two of the most left-wing organizations in the country.
"The smear-mongers who have launched this politically motivated witch hunt against Freedom Alliance will be proven wrong as we aggressively defend ourselves in the days and weeks ahead."
Daily Kos first reported on this story in 2007.
Hannity's new book "Conservative Victory" will be released on Tuesday, March 30.Read CREW's FTC complaint against Freedom Alliance:
20100329 - HannityFTC - Complaint and Exhibits