The Charities Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s office asked the Red Cross for detailed information about its fundraising and spending after the Superstorm, and the organization complied…eventually. The AG has this data, so the investigative reporters of ProPublica filed a Freedom of Information Law request to get a copy as part of their ongoing investigation of post-Sandy spending. The Red Cross asked that large portions of the document be redacted as “trade secrets.”
While one could probably make a legitimate argument that some parts of the document that describe the Red Cross’s fundraising practices or other internal information really are trade secrets, some of the requested redactions are baffling. We know this because the Attorney General’s office denied some of their requests, and the letter telling them so is public. For example, the Red Cross’s lawyers asked to have the title of one page redacted. That title consists of two lines, one of which just says “American Red Cross.”
Where did the more than $300 million go? Donors have a right to know, but the Red Cross refuses to even separate out how much money budgeted for certain expenses was spent during the disaster, and how much allocated for future efforts.