October 31, 2012; Source: Cleveland Leader


In light of the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy, the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney changed the theme of a recent Ohio “Victory Rally” to a “Relief Rally” at which attendees could offer donations to help those hit by the storm. Now, some commentators, particularly those on the political left, are saying that the rally was somewhat akin to a recent photo op by Romey’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who visited a soup kitchen where he washed dishes that had already been cleaned. In looking at the Romney relief rally, the Cleveland Leader reports that:


“[C]ampaign staffers soon began to worry about the last minute nature of the call for donations, and worried that people wouldn’t show up with anything. To ensure that Romney wasn’t left without any donations and an empty truck, BuzzFeed reports that the campaign went out the night before the event and spent $5,000 at a local Wal-Mart. They bought up supplies like granola bars, canned food, and diapers. These items were then used as props to put on display while they waited for the real donations to show up.”


Buzzfeed also reports that the Romney campaign has confirmed that it “did donate supplies to the relief effort” but has not indicated how much it spent. If the reporting of the Cleveland Leader and Buzzfeed is correct, then when the New York Daily News reported that “Donated goods, which will be sent to New Jersey, were neatly lined up by the campaign staff” at the rally, some of the neatly lined up goods were actually purchased with Romney’s campaign funds. Critics of Romney’s relief rally also note that, unlike most typical disaster relief rallies, Romney’s event, held outside of Dayton, Ohio, was replete with campaign banners and the playing of a campaign video. Others have questioned the usefulness of collecting foods and other in-kind donations in the state of Ohio to ship to New Jersey.


The opposition is having a field day with Romney’s relief rally, suggesting that it was just as phony as Ryan’s gratuitous clean pan washing. No matter what you think of Romney’s recent relief rally, nonprofits should be disgusted when candidates of any party use charity as a prop or a stage set for events that are more about politics than they are about charity. Do you think that was the case in this situation, or are the critics just doing what they say they despise by looking for political points? —Rick Cohen