Sandy Relief Fund: No Accountability and a big Pay-Out a Few Dys before Elections

Jon Bon Jovi of Sayreville, New Jersey beaches, and rock fame generously donated $1 million yesterday to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund (HSNJRF) whose Board Chair is Mary Pat Christie. When critics of HSNJRF raised questions about the organization’s legal status and slow start-up, she said, “You want accountability, you get accountability when you go through a methodical structure,” Sounds reasonable but after eight months we have seen little accountability. HSNJRF has yet to report data to the NJ Charitable Division. It’s file (registration #: CH3558500) lists a series of zeros next to all Expenses and Fund Raising categories. HSNJRF also has not yet submitted any financial data (Form 990) (E.I.N. #: 36-4745729 to the IRS.

As a result we have to rely on information from its website which indicates it has awarded $10.6 million in grants through April 30 to non-profits, and on NJ.con quoting Mary Pat Christie, that it has received $38 million in donations. For a grant organization the amount awarded is typically much more that the amount initially paid out, as payments are stretched over time. Hence we don’t know how much their grant expenses are to date. Nor do we know their expenditures for staff, legal counsel, accounting, rent, marketing and other costs for operating their fund. Mrs. Christie says they received $38 million in donations, but some contributions are made in installments and promises are not always kept, so it’s unclear how much cash the group has actually received and whether it has set up an account to reflect the difference between promised donations and actual anticipated receipts.  

We do know that in the past this charity had claimed it was a 501 (c)  (3) before it had even applied. We also know it was slow to set up a staff, create a Board, and disburse funds.

Governor Christie was quick to fault Congress for its delay in passing the Sandy Recovery Act. He seems unconcerned about the fact that only about 28% of its HSNJRF’s funds have been awarded so far. Although legally he has no authority over the Fund, he has been active in raising money for it. Perhaps he would be just as happy if more grants were awarded after the summer when his re-election campaign heats up.  As it happens the fund on its website announces that “Final Grant awards announcements are expected on Thursday, October 31.” – a big pay-out amount just a few days before the election.  And about that accountability, we probably will not see financials until the end of the year and after the monies have been disbursed.

Sandy Relief Fund: No Accountability and a big Pay-Out a Few Dys before Elections

Jon Bon Jovi of Sayreville, New Jersey beaches, and rock fame generously donated $1 million yesterday to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund (HSNJRF) whose Board Chair is Mary Pat Christie. When critics of HSNJRF raised questions about the organization’s legal status and slow start-up, she said, “You want accountability, you get accountability when you go through a methodical structure,” Sounds reasonable but after eight months we have seen little accountability. HSNJRF has yet to report data to the NJ Charitable Division. It’s file (registration #: CH3558500) lists a series of zeros next to all Expenses and Fund Raising categories. HSNJRF also has not yet submitted any financial data (Form 990) (E.I.N. #: 36-4745729 to the IRS.

As a result we have to rely on information from its website which indicates it has awarded $10.6 million in grants through April 30 to non-profits, and on NJ.con quoting Mary Pat Christie, that it has received $38 million in donations. For a grant organization the amount awarded is typically much more that the amount initially paid out, as payments are stretched over time. Hence we don’t know how much their grant expenses are to date. Nor do we know their expenditures for staff, legal counsel, accounting, rent, marketing and other costs for operating their fund. Mrs. Christie says they received $38 million in donations, but some contributions are made in installments and promises are not always kept, so it’s unclear how much cash the group has actually received and whether it has set up an account to reflect the difference between promised donations and actual anticipated receipts.  

We do know that in the past this charity had claimed it was a 501 (c)  (3) before it had even applied. We also know it was slow to set up a staff, create a Board, and disburse funds.

Governor Christie was quick to fault Congress for its delay in passing the Sandy Recovery Act. He seems unconcerned about the fact that only about 28% of its HSNJRF’s funds have been awarded so far. Although legally he has no authority over the Fund, he has been active in raising money for it. Perhaps he would be just as happy if more grants were awarded after the summer when his re-election campaign heats up.  As it happens the fund on its website announces that “Final Grant awards announcements are expected on Thursday, October 31.” – a big pay-out amount just a few days before the election.  And about that accountability, we probably will not see financials until the end of the year and after the monies have been disbursed.

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