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March 19, 2010; Orlando Independent Examiner
| Fox talk jock Sean Hannity is being criticized from the right on his role in a nonprofit called the Freedom Alliance.  

Hannity has been on a multi-year nationwide “freedom concert” tour that raises money for the nonprofit Freedom Alliance, which purportedly raises money to send the children of members of the military who died in Iraq to college.  Iran/Contragate miscreant Oliver North is identified on its Web site as founder and honorary chairman.  

But a conservative blogger named Debbie Schlussel alleges that only some 4 to 7 percent of the money given to Hannity’s group went to tuition payments (Note:  Hannity is clearly the star performer in this “freedom concerts,” but he is not listed as having an official governing or staff role in the organization on either its Web site or on Guidestar).  According to Schlussel, tuition payments were in the $1,000-$2,000 range and none more than $6,000.  Hannity and the Alliance have released a statement characterizing Schlussel’s charges as “false and malicious.”  

The Freedom Alliance response says that the organization spends plenty on “program services,” that it has given out $3.4 million in scholarships (including $800,000 in 2008) and put $15 million into a Scholarship Trust Fund, its resources pledged to the future tuition payments.  

The Freedom Alliance actually makes grants to wounded vets in addition to scholarships for kids.  A look at the Alliance’s 990s reveals little about the Scholarship Trust, giving some support for Schlussel’s contentions.  Here’s our review of the Freedom Alliance’s 990s:

Year of 990

Total Revenues

Total Expenses

Total Grants Paid

Surplus/(Deficit)

End of year fund balance

2008

8781431

6745717

1370063

2035714

19260574

2007

12459317

7461350

895347

4997467

19354588

2006

10822785

7064839

397900

3757946

14503615

2005

10058234

6400231

295285

3658003

10803554

 

Perhaps the fund balance is the “trust fund” that the Freedom Fund alleges to have created, but it’s not stated on the organization’s 990s.  In fact, the 990 suggests a more political operation at the Freedom Alliance than simply grants to students and wounded vets. 

The 2008 990 cites $2.324 million in expenses for a program of “public policy and education” (all in caps as in the 990):  FREEDOM ALLIANCE CONDUCTS RESEARCH AND OFFERS ANALYSIS ON PUBLIC POLICY MATTERS-ESPECIALLY THOSE ISSUES WHICH IMPACT AMERICA’S NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, NATIONAL DEFENSE, FOREIGN POLICY, AMERICAN HISTORY, AND THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT GENERALLY.  FREEDOM ALLIANCE EDUCATES THE PUBLIC ON THESE MATTERS THROUGH THE PUBLICATIO OF POLICY PAPERS, NEWSPAPER COLUMNS AND GRASSROOTS COMMUNICATIONS.  FREEDOM ALLIANCE ALSO HOSTS OR CO-HOSTS CONFERENCES AND SEMINARS AND PROVIDES OPINION AND ANALYSIS ON ISSUES OF CONCERN THROUGH THE INTERNET, TALK RADIO, TELEVISION TALK SHOWS, AND NEWSPAPERS.” 

Whether there is or isn’t a scholarship trust fund, there’s a lot more to Hannity’s charity than scholarships.  This is one political nonprofit that merits continuing scrutiny—from the right and the left.—Rick Cohen

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