The conduct of the Humane Society of the United States following Hurricane Sandy could be called unscrupulous—and that’s putting it lightly. HSUS raised over $2 million around the storm, but spent only one-third of that on Sandy relief. We know thanks to the New York Attorney General holding charities’ feet to the fire and requiring them to make public accounting of how they raised and spent money.
Thanks to the results of an open-records request, we now know even more about HSUS’s conduct after the disaster.
First, HSUS lays out how it spent money. Among its “relief” spending? Over $10,000 in professional photographer fees. That’s a lot of money spent simply taking photos. If a photographer costs $1,000 a day (a reasonable estimate), then that’s two weeks of photography. HSUS also shot a lot of video if you watched any of its follow-up marketing pieces, but that was apparently classified as staff time.
Perhaps that’s no surprise. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle went up to the disaster area, and you can bet that he wanted every last shot of him hauling a pet carrier. After all, here’s a $400,000-a-year CEO who thinks so highly of himself that he went on a 100-city book tour for his first book. (Reportedly, he has another in the works.)
Second, HSUS tries to preempt criticism that it only spent one-third of the money it raised on Sandy relief by stating that it raised money for its disaster relief team generally but doesn’t raise money for specific incidents. HSUS says if donors earmarked the money themselves specifically for Sandy relief, then that was honored. Otherwise, the money went into a big pot for future “disaster relief” (and future photography).
But here’s the catch: HSUS then says it didn’t allow online donors the option of earmarking their donation for Hurricane Sandy.
There’s a word for that: Sleazy. And that word describes a lot of things about a group that recently settled a federal racketeering lawsuit, had its charity rating pulled by Charity Navigator, and is under investigation by a state attorney general.