'Factor' investigation: Where did the money go for Hurricane Sandy victims?

Are the victims of storm receiving money being donated to them?


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 24, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Unresolved Problem Segment tonight, whenever there is a big disaster, billions of dollars flow into helping the victims and the Hurricane Sandy situation is no exception. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to spend 30 billion taxpayer dollars on recovery and in the private sector, $400 million has already been donated primarily to help folks in New Jersey and New York.

Some of that money came from a huge benefit concert a few weeks ago put on by a bunch of famous rock stars at Madison Square Garden and whenever you have this kind of exposition, there's a lot of fingers in the financial pie.

Joining us now from Washington, Ben Smilowitz, the executive director of the Disaster Accountability Project. So let's start with the rock concert. The money raised there going to the Robin Hood Foundation. I myself give that foundation a nice donation. Are they doing the right thing?

BEN SMILOWITZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DISASTER ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: Well they've made about 200 grants so far. Sent about 20, 30 percent of what they raised. So that's -- that's not bad for an organization that's sort of operating like a community foundation where they're really funding a wide range of organizations across the area.

O'REILLY: But when the folks, including me here, only 20 percent to 30 percent has been donated and remembered the storm, all right, hit Halloween. I mean, it was right before Halloween. So we said, wait a minute. We're approaching February. Only 20 percent to 30 percent, even if you are a cover agency that's giving out grants and of course you have to check out who you're giving the money to, it doesn't seem that that's that quick.

SMILOWITZ: Well, if it doesn't seem that quick, that doesn't speak so well for a lot of other actors and so you could look at the -- the group that raised the most money, $250 million, the American Red Cross only spending 40 percent. And their job is really more mass care, which is the urgent disaster relief services that we all know is shelter, food, immediate health services. And so you think they'd spend their money a lot faster based on their responsibility.

O'REILLY: Ok so the Red Cross has been a little ponderous and we don't know about the Robin Hood Foundation. The Robin Hood Foundation and the Red Cross, have they been transparent, because your organization is a watchdog to see that money gets paid. Have they been transparent with you?

SMILOWITZ: With us? No. Unfortunately not and --


O'REILLY: Neither organization has been transparent with you?

SMILOWITZ: Not this time. The Red Cross responded to our Haiti survey, but not -- not Sandy so far.

O'REILLY: Now that's not good. We want the Robin Hood Foundation and the Red Cross to cooperate and say this is what we're doing and this is why we're doing it. We ran into the same problem with United Way after 9-11. You may remember that investigation that we did.

Now, the other thing is that it's very, very cold here in the northeast now. And we got people out in Staten Island and other places still don't have heat. And it seems to me with all of this money, that you'd be able to buy these people a big portable heater and just give it to them so they'd have heat in their house. You know, this is what I'm talking about here.

SMILOWITZ: Right. And they have strong enough and they have enough technology for weather forecasting that they could have predicted this coming along and organizations could have deployed services and they -- really they should be acting with the same urgency as their fund raising efforts and we all remember all the fundraising efforts after Sandy.

O'REILLY: Yes everybody gave money and rock stars gave their time and the event came together quickly. You know this is disturbing to me.

I'm going to ask you now to give me a grade based upon what's happening in the private sector, all right, A, being the best performance; F, being the worst performance. Of all the private charities, where are we here?

SMILOWITZ: It's so hard because you're grouping groups that have done tremendous work in local to New York and New Jersey that have spent three or more times what they've raised and then with organizations that don't respond to surveys and have raised $250 million and you really can't figure out what they're doing from day-to-day. And --


O'REILLY: All right can you give me -- we'll end on a positive note. Give me somebody that's really doing well so when the folks want to donate, they know where to go.

SMILOWITZ: Well, I would say it's not as -- it's not as clear cut as that. It's hard for me to endorse. But if you looked at Sarah Litus (ph) Smart, Food Bank of New York City have spent 74 percent of the $8 million they've raised. City Meals on Wheels have spent three times the $650,000 they've raised. And usually local organizations that have worked in that -- in that region affected for a long time know the community really well.


O'REILLY: So the more local the better rather than the big giant ones. Ok, that makes sense.

SMILOWITZ: In other words instead of the knee jerk reaction, it's good to do some homework, look -- look to see which organizations actually have the capacity to respond to them and then fund them and be generous.

O'REILLY: Ok Mr. Smilowitz thank you very much. We appreciate it.

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