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Red Cross raised $1/2 billion for Haiti – where did it go?

It’s the relief agency Americans are told to donate to in the immediate aftermath of any major disaster – the American Red Cross.

Generous Americans are told to not send clothing or food or attempt to deliver supplies themselves to victims of earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes – just send money to the Red Cross. The charity promises it will use those donations to deliver relief where it’s needed most.

sounds sensible. Too bad it doesn’t work that way, Red Cross insiders have revealed to ProPublica and National Public Radio.

The January 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation of Haiti provides the latest example of mismanagement cited by critics of the congressionally chartered nonprofit.

When the earthquake struck, the Red Cross was still reeling from earlier scandals. Eighteen months before, Marsha J. Evans had become the new CEO following the resignation of one predecessor who impregnated a subordinate employee and another who came under criticism for her $468,599 per year salary.

The disaster was seen as “a spectacular fundraising opportunity,” according to a former official who helped organize Red Cross’ relief effort. Celebrities, including Michelle Obama, were drafted to make appeals for donations. While donations for emergency relief work poured in, Red Cross officials couldn’t bring themselves to turn off the spigot. Fundraising continued, wiping out a lingering deficit that exceeded $100 million.

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