The United Way in the No Spin Zone

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, November 26, 2001.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:   Now for some reaction.  Joining us from Washington is Joshua Gotbaum, the CEO of the United Way's September 11 Fund.

What say you, Mr. Gotbaum?

The Factor  is always worth watching! Other guests and topics for November 26, 2001 included:
• Why are the Marines in Afghanistan? What can they do that Special Ops can't?Fmr. Marine Jared Stern & fmr. Green Beret Bob Bevelacqua
•  The Arab media & the War on Terror.  Dr. Walid Phares, professor of Middle East Studies at Florida Atlantic University & Sr. Research Fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies gives his view
• How has JetBlue Airways managed to make money since Sept. 11? David Neeleman, JetBlue CEO explains
• Syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington explains why it is patriotic to give up your SUV
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JOSHUA GOTBAUM, CEO, SEPTEMBER 11 FUND:  I say, Bill, that you have got it half right.  Millions of people contributed to the September 11 Fund so that we would provide financial security for the victims and their families, and we're doing that.  We have written -- we've funded organizations that have written more than 20,000 checks covering mortgages, tuition payments, et cetera.

But -- and this is an important but -- other donors contributed to the September 11 Fund because they wanted to make sure that we would support the nonprofit institutions, the cultural institutions and cultural institutions, health care institutions, et cetera, that also make up part of the community.  And we are honoring their...

O'REILLY:  Well, why didn't you make...

GOTBAUM:  ... wishes too.

O'REILLY:  ... two separate funds then?

GOTBAUM:  We (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  Why, why is it fair for...

GOTBAUM:  From (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... a guy from Lawrenceville, Georgia, to respond and give $50 to a movie star, and then see that $50 go to an organization like EarthWorks or whatever it is that he doesn't particular like?

GOTBAUM:  And actually, Bill, his contribution to the telethon is not going to any cultural institutions.  The telethon money was specifically reserved for victims and their families, and not one dime of that money is going to cultural institutions.

However, we do have another fund, the General September 11 Fund, which, from day one, it was announced would have a broad purpose, which from day one they said it will cover the victims, their families, and the...

O'REILLY:  All right, I'm confused now.

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and it's with that money...

O'REILLY:  You have a September 11 Fund...

GOTBAUM:  ... Bill, that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that money...

O'REILLY:  Right.  Wait a minute...

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we are providing support to nonprofit organizations whose facilities were devastated on September 11...

O'REILLY:  I'm very confused.

GOTBAUM:  ... or operations were disrupted.

O'REILLY:  I'm very confused.  Do you how many September 11 funds do you have, how many?

GOTBAUM:  There are two.

O'REILLY:  There are two.

GOTBAUM:  There's the September 11...

O'REILLY:  This is the first I'm hearing about this.  There's the September 11 telethon fund, is that right?

GOTBAUM:  Right.  That's right.

O'REILLY:  And then there's the September 11 what fund?

GOTBAUM:  There is the General September 11 Fund, whose doors were opened on September 11.  There is a separate fund, also administered jointly by the United Way and the New York Community Trust, that was set up specifically to receive the contributions...

O'REILLY:  So no telethon money's...

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... going into that.

GOTBAUM:  Pardon?

O'REILLY:  No telethon money's going into that general fund.

GOTBAUM:  The telethon money is not going into the general fund.  The telethon money is reserved specifically for the victims and their families.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Now, is all of it going to go to the victims and their families?

GOTBAUM:  One hundred percent.

O'REILLY:  That means you're not taking any administrative costs off that at all?

GOTBAUM:  Yes, actually, thank you for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) enabling me to make that point too.  One of the things that the United Way and the New York Community Trust said from day one is, the administrative costs of the September 11 Fund are not going to be borne by contributions to the September 11 Fund.  We will raise those costs separately.

So as a result, my rent, my salary, that of my staff, et cetera, does not come out of the September 11.  Every penny that goes into the September 11 Fund goes out as grants to help the victims and their families, and to the General Fund affected communities.

O'REILLY:  Do you have a database with all the victims' names and addresses in it?

GOTBAUM:  Alas, not yet, but we are working very hard to get one up.  We have encouraged our grantees to work together to get up a common database...

O'REILLY:  But that's your responsibility.

GOTBAUM:  ... so that we can do --  Pardon?

O'REILLY:  That's your responsibility.

GOTBAUM:  Actually, Bill, no one can -- right now, no one has a definitive list.  We don't have a definitive list.  What we've done is, we've worked with Elliott Spitzer, the attorney general of New York State, we've worked with the frontline charities, and we've said to them, You must get this done.  They're working on it, and we've said, Cost will not be an object.  If cost is an issue, we'll pay for it.

O'REILLY:  Well, look, we're now going into three months after this attack, and you still don't have the names and the database of the people, that means obviously you haven't contacted the people.  You've given 15 percent of the money out from the September 11 Fund.  I don't know whether that's both funds, because I'm just hearing tonight now there's two funds.

I just thought there was one.  Everybody else in my organization just felt there was one fund.  Now you're telling me there's two.  This is confusing, very confusing to people.  Now.

GOTBAUM:  Well, then I think it's very important that we set the record straight.

O'REILLY:  All right, fine.  But, I mean, we've been trying to get information out of you guys for a long time, and it's not been easy, Mr. Gotbaum, it has not been easy.  Now, you say...

GOTBAUM:  Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Bill, let me, let me say this, Bill...

O'REILLY:  ... you say --  Hold it, hold it, hold it.  Hold it.

GOTBAUM:  ... this is the single most -- let's be clear -- this is the largest disaster in American history...

O'REILLY:  I -- all right.

GOTBAUM:  ... this is the largest...

O'REILLY:  But if the Red Cross can straighten themselves out...

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the most (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... so can you, OK?

GOTBAUM:  And (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  And you're still much more confused than they are at this juncture.

Now, you don't give money directly to the families, as you've admitted a million times before.

GOTBAUM:  And that...

O'REILLY:  You use other organizations to do that, right?

GOTBAUM:  That's exactly, that's exactly right, and...

O'REILLY:  Well, how can you guarantee me and anybody else that that money is all going to get to the families?  Because those organizations, and we've listed a whole bunch of them, they have overhead costs, and, and, and they're going to take a slice of that money.  So it's not going to all get to the families, is it?

GOTBAUM:  Bill, let's be clear.  The administrative costs of the September 11 Fund are not -- don't come out of the September 11 Fund.  We fund frontline organizations that deliver services to people, and the reason we do that is because that way we don't have to wait to build up a large organization to help people.

O'REILLY:  All right, but you're telling me...

GOTBAUM:  We fund (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... that those organizations that you funded...

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  Mr. Gotbaum, hold it.

GOTBAUM:  ... Safe Horizon, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  Mr. Gotbaum!

GOTBAUM:  We funded Safe Horizon, which was an existing organization, because they could write checks for people on the spot.  We gave them the money, and they have written over 20,000 checks...

O'REILLY:  All right.  Mr. Gotbaum, are you telling me...

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  That's the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... that all of the -- all of the organizations that you fund, they're not taking a penny for administrative costs?  Is that what you're telling me?

GOTBAUM:  No, that is not my point.  I'm saying the September 11 Fund is taking not a penny from the fund.  We are...

O'REILLY:  All right, now, look, you're dancing, and I'm getting steamed.  You say you're not taking any administrative costs, and I believe you.

GOTBAUM:  That's right.

O'REILLY:  But that's a shell game, if you're giving it to other people who are taking administrative costs out.

GOTBAUM:  Bill, I got to tell you, I don't agree with you, and here's why.

O'REILLY:  You don't agree?  It's a fact.

GOTBAUM:  Here -- no, sorry.  It is a fact that we fund the cost of delivering services to the victims and their families.  And the reason we do that is because if we said, We won't pay for the rent to deliver this, or for the people to -- the payrolls of the people who do it, if we waited until we had volunteer people and volunteer facilities and volunteer computers, the victims would be waiting till kingdom come.

O'REILLY:  That's fine.  Just say that.

GOTBAUM:  If we don't do that, and...

O'REILLY:  Just say that.  Don't say...

GOTBAUM:  And Bill, I am, and I will...

O'REILLY:  ... it's all...

GOTBAUM:  ... and I just said it again, OK?

O'REILLY:  All right, but listen, Mr. Gotbaum, you're pettifogging this issue like crazy.  I'm going to take a break, we're going to bring in another person on who's an expert in this nonprofit stuff.  But you're doing a dance, and I don't think you should be doing that.

GOTBAUM:  Bill, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  I think everybody wants...

GOTBAUM:  ... Bill, let me say, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... we didn't know there were two funds, now we think -- now we know there are two.

GOTBAUM:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  You said all the money's going to go, now you say, no, we have to pay administrative costs.  Come on!

GOTBAUM:  All right, Bill...

O'REILLY:  Let's take the break, let's take a deep breath, I got to take one, you got to take one, we'll bring on another guest in a moment.  Let's take a break, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'REILLY:  Continuing now with a look at the United Way's September 11 Fund, joining us is the CEO of that fund, Joshua Gotbaum from Washington, and now from Los Angeles, Renata Rafferty, a charity consultant and author of the book "Don't Just Give It Away: How to Make the Most of Your Charitable Giving."

Now, to be fair to Mr. Gotbaum, I'm going to try to stay out of this discussion, and let you, Renata, take the opening, and then we'll let Mr. Gotbaum reply to that and then go back and forth.  So what had -- what say you?

RENATA RAFFERTY, CHARITY CONSULTANT:  I guess what disappoints me is that the United Way and the September 11 Fund, in an effort to try to avoid the traps the Red Cross got into, is trying to be very specific about what it's doing with the money, but it is not being clear with Americans who donated the money about what happens to that money once it leaves the United Way.

I think it's a bit disingenuous to say none of the money in the September 11 Fund...

GOTBAUM:  Renata, that's -- Renata, that...

RAFFERTY:  ... is going to go to overhead costs when it will be going to overhead costs at those charities to whom you're disbursing the funds.  That's simply a fact.

GOTBAUM:  Renata, that is just plain not true.  This is the single most open and visible charitable effort in history.  Name me one other charity that puts up every single grant on its Web site within a week of the time it makes it.  We have been very clear...

RAFFERTY:  All I'm saying is...

GOTBAUM:  ... if -- very clear what we do...

RAFFERTY:  I -- Mr. Gotbaum...

GOTBAUM:  ... fund and what we don't fund.

RAFFERTY:  ... as I have said on Mr. O'Reilly's show before, there is nothing wrong, and it's quite standard, that charitable organizations take a portion of the funds they receive to do the -- to pay for the things that aren't necessarily direct program and services but necessary overhead.

What I'm having a problem with is the September 11 Fund not being straight out and letting people know that that's how at least some small portion of the money will be used once it gets to the...

O'REILLY:  Miss Rafferty, were you aware that there are...

RAFFERTY:  ... to these other charities.  That's, that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

O'REILLY:  ... were you aware, Miss Rafferty, that there are two September 11 Funds?  Were you aware of that?

RAFFERTY:  Absolutely not.  And I'll tell you that concerns me, because I am someone who is highly involved and highly visible in the sector and have made a point of being as aptly informed, certainly more so than most of the public...

GOTBAUM:  Renata, Renata, take...

RAFFERTY:  ... and that was not clear.

GOTBAUM:  Renata, take a look at our Web site.

RAFFERTY:  I have looked at the Web site, sir.

GOTBAUM:  It's there.

RAFFERTY:  Your Web site...

GOTBAUM:  Take a look at our Web site.

RAFFERTY:  ... your Web site suggests that there is one fund, the money will go to victims, their families, and other organizations' short- and long-term needs.  Now, I don't have a problem and I don't think the American problem -- public has a problem with money going to relief-based organizations.  But tell me whether you believe it was truly donor intent that the money should go to, for example, the Brooklyn Philharmonic versus going to a homeless or food shelter in southern California that also had to cancel its fund-raising efforts and has been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hit substantially by contributions.

GOTBAUM:  Renata, it was...

RAFFERTY:  The Web site does not clearly state the money is only going to go to New York.  If it's not only going to New York, I'm going to say that there are other charities in this country that have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hit a lot harder than some of those few arts organizations that have been noted on your Web site and in your press release.

O'REILLY:  All right, let Mr. Gotbaum reply.

GOTBAUM:  Renata, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

RAFFERTY:  That's what I'm concerned about.

O'REILLY:  Go ahead, Mr. Gotbaum.

GOTBAUM:  OK.  Do we have an equal time (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here?

O'REILLY:  Yes, go ahead.

GOTBAUM:  Thanks.  From day one, the United Way and the New York Community Trust, which created the September 11 Fund, said, We want a broad fund to meet the needs of the victims, their families, and the affected communities.

RAFFERTY:  No, I...

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY:  ... let him finish, Renata, Renata...

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY:  ... let him finish.

RAFFERTY:  OK.

GOTBAUM:  ... from day one, it's been very clear that we -- that there would be a special focus on New York and Washington, D.C., which were the communities that suffered the greatest damage.  And from day one, it's been clear that we had donors who wanted us, in addition to dealing with the financial needs of the immediate victims -- and they're doing that -- we had donors who said, You should take a look at the non profits that are an essential part of this community too.

Folks like the Ford Foundation, which gave $5 million to the September 11 Fund, said, We want this grant to cover non profits.  Folks like the Ma Foundation, which gave...

RAFFERTY:  Sure.

GOTBAUM:  ... more than a million dollars, said, We want to do that.

O'REILLY:  Then you should have sliced it off...

GOTBAUM:  And that's the reason why...

O'REILLY:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) then though.

GOTBAUM:  ... we (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  You should have sliced it off with them.

GOTBAUM:  ... with both needs.  I'm sorry, Bill?

O'REILLY:  You should have sliced it off and had them give what they wanted, and, look, the problem here, and I got to wrap this up, and I appreciate both of you coming on, especially you, Mr. Gotbaum, because you knew you were going to go into a firestorm, the problem here is confusion and chaos.  And I've had enough of it, personally, and I think the audience has had enough of it too.

You've had enough time, Mr. Gotbaum, to get a database list of who needs the money, to get a clear picture of what the September 11 Fund is.  Now we know there's two.  This is the first time that me or my staff has known that.  We've been investigating it for two months.  Renata didn't know it, she's in the business.

So it's your fault...

GOTBAUM:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... the onus is on you...

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the Web site...

O'REILLY:  Web site, shmeb site...

GOTBAUM:  ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY:  ... the onus is on you, with all the money that you have, more than $300 million, to get the word out to the folks.  It's not the folks's responsibility to try to figure out this Web.  It's your responsibility.

GOTBAUM:  And Bill, that's why I came on.

O'REILLY:  And -- OK, and we respect that.

GOTBAUM:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE), OK, because...

O'REILLY:  We respect that.

GOTBAUM:  ... that -- because this is public...

O'REILLY:  And we'll let the audience decide...

GOTBAUM:  ... and we are accountable.

O'REILLY:  ... who's doing the job.  Miss Rafferty, Mr. Gotbaum, thanks very much.

GOTBAUM:  Thanks.

RAFFERTY:  Thank you.

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