CREW Files Complaints With FTC and IRS Against Sean Hannity, Freedom Concerts and Freedom Alliance
Washington, D.C. - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against Sean Hannity, his Freedom Concerts, the Freedom Alliance and Lt. Col. Oliver North. Copies of the complaints were also sent to the attorney generals of the states in which concerts are scheduled to be held this summer.
CREW’s FTC complaint alleges Hannity and Freedom Concerts have engaged in illegal and deceptive marketing practices by suggesting that all money generated by ticket sales for the Freedom Concerts he sponsors each summer goes to scholarships for children of killed and wounded service members. In fact, the concerts are staged by Premiere Marketing, which is headed by Duane Ward – also the head of Premiere Speakers Bureau, which exclusively represents Mr. Hannity and Lt. Col. North. After staging the concerts, Premiere donates an unknown portion of the concert proceeds to the Freedom Alliance.
Hannity has promoted the concerts on his show, making statements such as, “Every penny, 100 percent of the donations are applied to the Freedom Alliance scholarship fund.” Similarly, promoting the concert on Hannity’s program, Lt. Col. North has said, “There’s no overhead. There’s no expenses taken out. Every penny that’s donated or that’s raised through things like the Freedom Concerts” goes to the scholarship fund.” In addition, Hannity has pledged that all the proceeds of his new book, “Conservative Victory,” will go to Freedom Alliance.
CREW’s IRS complaint against Freedom Alliance asks the IRS to consider revoking its charitable tax status because the organization has engaged in prohibited political activities. When Freedom Alliance first formed in 1999, the IRS conditioned its charitable tax status on the organization removing politically partisan materials from its website and warned it not to intervene in political campaigns. Despite those warnings, Freedom Alliance’s website includes links to Lt. Col. North’s columns, which are largely political, rents its mailing list to a communications firm that works for organizations that “seek to reach Republicans and conservatives across the United States,” and hosts an annual “Freedom Cruise” with Republican politicians such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. In addition, Freedom Alliance appears to have a relationship with Team America, a PAC formed by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), dedicated to anti-immigration efforts and supporting conservative candidates.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “There is little more despicable than preying upon the generosity of Americans by deceiving them into believing they are aiding the children of killed and wounded service members when the truth is most of the money is going to a for-profit venture.” Sloan continued, “Americans deserve to know whether this high-profile charity allegedly dedicated to helping veterans and their families is really doing what it says it is.”
Jon Soltz, the Chair of VoteVets.org said, “If not every dime is going to those who wore the uniform, then people have the right to know that. It really is that simple. There are many wonderful charities to help troops and veterans that are completely transparent and truthful about where their donations go. If Sean Hannity and Freedom Alliance are being untruthful, that hurts all those other charities, because it only causes people to hold back donations to worthy causes in the future. We need to get to the bottom of this, quickly, and the FTC and IRS must take any corrective action that’s deemed necessary.”