Red Cross changes plans after prolonged pressure

WASHINGTON: Buckling after coming under withering public scrutiny,

the American Red Cross has announced that all money donated to the

September 11 Liberty Fund will be given to the victims' families and

their long-term financial needs.

Two weeks ago, the Red Cross hired Edelman's Washington, DC practice and

the firm of Cholpak, Leonard, Schecter & Associates to shape a message

that would help the charity group navigate through the barrage of bad

press that was threatening to undermine its good work. The Red Cross was

accused of misleading the public on how it would spend the $564

million that it had raised for the Liberty Fund.

On November 14, the Red Cross held a press conference with members of

the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the House Energy and

Commerce Committee to announce that it would not be diverting $200 million of the money to a plan to prepare for future terrorist


"We deeply regret that our activities over the past eight weeks have not

been as sharply focused as America wants, nor as focused as the victims

of this tragedy deserve," said Harold Decker, CEO of the Red Cross at

the press conference. "The people affected by this terrible tragedy have

been our first priority, and beginning today, they will be the only

priority of the Liberty Fund."

Cholpak Leonard helped prepare the press conference, and set up

television appearances for Decker so that he could explain the group's

new position on the Liberty Fund. Decker appeared on CNN's MoneyLine,

various nightly news programs, and Larry King Live. The national print

media picked up the story the next day.

The Red Cross also decided to provide a database with the names of

25,000 families to whom it has provided assistance, which will be shared

by various relief groups. In another change, the Red Cross stated that

the operating costs of the Liberty Fund, including the toll-free lines

that were used to locate victims' families, will be paid by the interest

earned on the fund's balance.

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