In the immediate aftermath of Catastrophe Katrina, I urged my readers to contribute to my favorite relief organization, Operation USA. I am pleased that many of you did.
Now, my old compadre and Op USA chief Richard Walden has been burning up the keyboards in exposing some of the more unseemly aspects of the Red Cross. You might have caught his “The Red Cross Money Pit” op-ed piece in last Sunday’s L.A.Times.
If not, check out his recent bloggings on the same theme on the Huffington Post.
When you boil it all down, the national Red Cross cashes in big-time on Katrina-like disasters while the general public doesn’t realize that the Federal Government pays the Red Cross for its work. Says Walden:
No one seems to read Red Cross ads with any real subtlety: they do not rescue or medicate people; they do shelter them, feed them and help them relocate via motel/hotel vouchers...all of which is reimbursed via pre-existing contracts as long as there is a state or federal disaster declaration.
They can indeed spend the money they have collected for Katrina -- $750 million as of September 19th -- on people and community institutions in need beyond what they will get back from FEMA and the state governments; but there is no history of them doing so to any significant extent. Local chapters, yes; it's their community's disaster. The national Red Cross, unlikely; they were the ones who did not appear in New Orleans and pulled out their local chapter from its own community.
Nevertheless, something like 80% of charitable donations provoked by Katrina go to the Red Cross which also gets the lion’s share of flakking from celebrities and the Feds.
It’s a pity because that money could be so better spent by smaller, more agile, more grass-roots groups like… well… Operation USA!
Meanwhile, a note to my good friend Arianna: Dahling, there’s a Red Cross banner ad (!) on the top of the HuffPo page where Walden’s postings appear. I know, if anybody can, you can make it disappear with a mere snap of your fingers!