Red Cross Claims Details of Hurricane Sandy Spending are a “Trade Secret”

Monday, June 30, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy’s havoc two years ago, the American Red Cross (ARC) raised $312 million to help those affected by the disaster. The nonprofit says it spent or has plans to spend nearly all of this money, about $290 million. But its leaders won’t reveal how the money is being allocated, prompting a legal fight with the investigative news website ProPublica.


The ARC did provide some of its records to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. After getting snubbed by the nonprofit, ProPublica filed a public records act request with Schneiderman’s office to obtain the information that way. The charity then hired one of the nation’s most powerful law firms, Gibson Dunn, to help it stop ProPublica from gaining access to its financials related to the storm recovery.


Gibson Dunn insisted the information sought by ProPublica included “internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information.” They added that disclosing the information would cause the ARC to “suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross’ business model for an increased competitive advantage.” The firm did not specify who the ARC’s competitors are.


The request went so far as to ask that the AG redact “a two-line title” at the top of a page, one line of which was “American Red Cross,” ProPublica’s Justin Elliott noted. The AG’s office denied the redaction request.


Meanwhile, the battle continues to find out exactly who received the $290 million that’s been ticketed for relief.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money Is a ‘Trade Secret’ (by Justin Elliott, ProPublica)

Long After Sandy, Red Cross Post-Storm Spending Still a Black Box (by Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica)


RandyKC 10 years ago
I've been to disasters where the American Red Cross was selling coffee and donuts at relatively high costs, yet down the way the Salvation Army was giving away the same. I switched all my donations over to the SA after that.

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