- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Charities such as the American Red Cross have an obligation to honor donors' wishes and if they can't spend money raised for Sept. 11 relief on that issue, they should consider giving it back, a charity watchdog said yesterday.
If charities have to bend or stretch the ways they're using the donations, then "I think that they ought to offer to return the money to donors," said Rich Cowles, executive director of Charities Review Council in St. Paul, Minn.
Bill Blaul, spokesman for the American Red Cross, said reports that the charity was planning to spend Sept. 11 donations on other disaster relief was "becoming an urban legend."
"We are not N-O-T commingling the Liberty Fund dollars" with other kinds of disaster relief, he said.
An Arizona congressman yesterday said the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight is planning to hold a hearing on Sept. 11 fund raising possibly as early as next week.
"I think it's very important that we make it part of the public record exactly what is being done with the funds accumulated by so many charities, including the Red Cross, that are designated for the families of those who perished September 11th," said Rep. J. D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican.
Oversight hearings will allow families "to come forward if they're having difficulty receiving help," said Mr. Hayworth. It will also give charities a chance to give a public accounting "of what is going on with more than $1 billion of their money," he said.
Since Sept. 11, more than $1.04 billion has been raised for relief efforts, the Chronicle of Philanthropy has reported. Almost half of that $452 million went to the American Red Cross.
On Friday, Dr. Bernadine Healy, American Red Cross president and chief executive office, said she would be stepping down by the end of the year.
Dr. Healy, who appeared at a press conference with two top Red Cross leaders, said that she had disagreed with some board members over the creation of a "separate, distinct and highly transparent" American Red Cross Liberty Fund, which received all the Sept. 11-related donations.
"I strongly oppose the commingling of the monies raised in the aftermath of 9-11 with other Red Cross disaster funds," she said Friday. "And here again, reasonable people can differ."
Mr. Blaul yesterday said that all Liberty Fund monies are going to terror-related spending, unless otherwise designated. The "furthest afield" the fund has gone is to develop public education materials about anthrax and protecting the family against terrorism, he said.
"Accounting for these funds what we've received, what we've allocated and what we've spent is on the front page of our Web site. We are completely committed to an open and transparent process."
The key for all Sept. 11 charities is that money should be used for what it was solicited, said Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. The watchdog group has been fielding calls from contributors concerned about how the donations are used.
Mr. Cowles said the burden is on charities to communicate how donations are used "until they're blue in the face."
"Some of these gifts are from first-time givers or rare givers, and if out of all this wonderful surge of generosity comes a sense of distrust of an organization as well-known and solid as the American Red Cross, then charitable fund raising in general will take a huge hit," he said.
Meanwhile, organizers for celebrity fund-raisers said yesterday they still didn't have firm estimates for donations raised at concerts on Oct. 20 in New York and Oct. 21 in Washington and Nashville, Tenn.
A tally for the New York concert that featured rock stars Paul McCartney and Elton John could be ready by today, said a spokeswoman at Cablevision Systems Corp. in New York. That concert benefited the Robin Hood Relief Fund.
The D.C. concert segments will air on ABC Thursday is still expected to raise about $3 million, while the Nashville concert is expected to top $5 million, said Howard Schacter, spokesman for Clear Channel Entertainment.
The Nashville concert benefited the Salvation Army and small relief organizations while the D.C. concert raised funds for the American Red Cross Liberty Fund, Salvation Army Relief Fund, Pentagon Relief Fund and Rewards for Justice.
The September 11th Fund is preparing to release more grants this week, said a spokeswoman. The $150 million raised in a celebrity telethon Sept. 21 has not yet been dispersed but will be discussed when the fund's board meets for the first time Thursday, she said.

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