Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Sandy: What is the RED CROSS Hiding?

It appears that the Red Cross is fighting a ProPublica public records request for information detailing how they spent donations that were received for victims of Hurricane Sandy – which was actually a tropical storm by the time it hit land. 

It’s YOUR money, YOU decide. Yes or No?

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  According to ProPublica …

Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money Is a ‘Trade Secret’ -- The charity is fighting our public records request for information on how it raised and spent money after the superstorm.

Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy? The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a "trade secret."

The Red Cross' "trade secret" argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it's not clear yet how much since the documents haven't yet been released.

As we've reported, the Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent.

The Red Cross did give some information about Sandy spending to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been investigating the charity. But the Red Cross declined our request to disclose the details.

So we filed a public records request for the information the Red Cross provided to the attorney general's office.

That's where the law firm Gibson Dunn comes in. An attorney from the firm's New York office appealed to the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law's trade secret exemption.

The documents include "internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information," wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general's office.

If those details were disclosed, "the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross's business model for an increased competitive advantage," Levin wrote.

Source: Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money Is a ‘Trade Secret’ - ProPublica

Bottom line …

The real trade secret that the Red Cross does not want you to know is not how they fundraise, but that they may withhold a significant portion of donations that are destined for disbursement to victims. Perhaps the it is the paucity or timing of its donations that they fear will stem the tide of cash flowing into their “disaster relief” efforts. Or perhaps they are worried that the public might look at the Red Cross as a licensing and franchise play that benefits its management rather than being a monolithic charity?

The ONLY real competition between charitable agencies should be to see who can efficiently and effectively give the most money in the fastest time period as to maximize the relief of stricken victims.

-- steve

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