DorobekInsider: Fleshing out the funniest celebrity “charity” controversy

Wednesday - 9/30/2009, 3:10pm EDT

I noted earlier that I am one of the judges tonight for the 14th annual Funniest Celebrity in Washington “charity” event.

Well, the Washington Post’s Reliable Sources column reported yesterday that the term charity apparently deserves to be in quotes. The WP headline: ‘Funniest Celeb’ Charities Get Little Aid

For all the obvious wisecracks about its name, the annual “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” contest has triumphed in getting some of this city’s major players to cut loose with surprisingly outrageous stand-up comedy acts — with the rationale that it’s all for a good cause, of course…

But despite the VIP luster — and tickets starting at $200 — tax records and interviews show that the D.C. perennial has failed in the past five years to make any contributions to the charities for which it promised to raise money. Virtually all revenue appears to have been eaten up by the costs of putting on the one-night show, plus a year-round part-time salary for founder-CEO-host Richard Siegel and administrative expenses that charity-finance experts say are unusually high for such a small organization.

Siegel — whose tax-exempt organization “supports children’s charities,” according to its IRS filings — blames the charities. He says they failed to live up to agreements to sell $20,000 worth of tickets and sponsorships, an assertion at least one charity disputes. Ticket sales by Funniest Celebrity “essentially cover operational costs,” Siegel said in a statement.

Read the full WP story here.

There was much discussion around the WTOP-WFED offices yesterday about whether it was appropriate for me and WTOP Man About Town Bob Madigan should participate.

Here is how I am going to deal with it…

Frankly, I am always a bit uncomfortable when we wrap these kids of events with some charity. Generally, I want transparency in where my money is going, so… I’ll pay for my entertainment, and I’m happy to pay the charities that I deem worthy. A few years ago, I rode in the new defunct AIDS Ride DC, which was supposed to benefit DC’s Whitman-Walker Clinic. Unfortunately there was a loathsome organization, which seems to have dissolved, that was taking more than half of the money that people donated. So when I did the ride, I asked people to give specifically to Whitman-Walker — and I would match their donations by covering my bicycling expenses. In the end, I don’t expect for people to pay for me to bike.

I am going to use a similar model for the event tonight — I have donated $200 will be donating money to the cause — StandUp for Kids

STANDUP FOR KIDS, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded in 1990 to help rescue homeless and at-risk youth. With national headquarters in Atlanta, GA, STANDUP FOR KIDS is run almost entirely by volunteers. For more information, please visit www.standupforkids.org