Unwanted Hurricane Sandy donations, like Romney’s, now a “disaster” for Red Cross

From AP we learn that the deluge of disaster relief donations following Hurricane Sandy, that include things the Red Cross said it does not want – such as goods instead of money – has caused a “second disaster after the disaster” for the agency.

You’ll recall that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan kept insisting on donating goods to the Red Cross, as a political stunt – in fact, Romney bought the goods with his own money, then gave them to voters to give back to him on camera – even though the Red Cross was explicit on its Web site that people should NOT donate goods, but rather should donate money and/or blood.

Note that that woman must have gotten that Obama
t-shirt at the non-partisan disaster relief rally.

When you donate goods to the Red Cross they have to divert staff time, and money, towards organizing those goods, delivering them, and more.  As AP explains:

Superstorm Sandy has brought out generosity far and wide in the biggest U.S. relief effort for the American Red Cross and other groups since Hurricane Katrina swamped the Gulf Coast in 2005.
And while the response is heartwarming, some of that is also helping create a “second disaster after the disaster,” in the words of one expert.

And while the response is heartwarming, some of that is also helping create a “second disaster after the disaster,” in the words of one expert.

Ad hoc relief groups need to make sure they are taking in only items that are requested and can be distributed. Money is the best because organizations don’t have to pay to move it and can tailor spending to changing needs, McGowan said. Transporting and distributing a simple donated can of food can be $15 to $25.

In case there was any doubt about the phony nature of Romney’s giving, remember that Paul Ryan actually stopped his office’s “hurricane relief efforts” so he could get there for a photo opp before they were finished. It was more important that Paul Ryan get his photo in the paper than that the supplies be sent as soon as possible.

In the end, we know that the supplies weren’t needed at all. They needed money. The Red Cross even issued a passive-aggressive “thank you” to the Romney campaign telling them to stop it:

From the Cincinnati Enquirer we learn that the Red Cross issued a passive-aggressive statement about Romney’s “gift” yesterday:

Agency officials told The Enquirer they are grateful for help, but don’t want people – including political candidates – sending supplies. They would rather have donations of money and blood.

“We are not asking for material donations,” said Laura Steinmetz, spokeswoman for the South Jersey Region of the organization. “Financial donations allow us to quickly and efficiently meet the needs of the people in a disaster. It’s far more expensive for us to receive the donated goods, sort them, warehouse them and transport them. So our financial donations are much more cost effective.”

That’s “Red Cross”-speak for: Stop it.

Romney and Ryan really are the gifts that keep on giving.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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52 Responses to “Unwanted Hurricane Sandy donations, like Romney’s, now a “disaster” for Red Cross”

  1. David2012 says:

    Of course the red cross wants MONEY and not canned food. Just like homeless people on the street want you to give them cash instead of a McDonalds burger when they say they’re hungry. Afterall, their CEO made $561,000 in 2011

  2. Irehs says:

    To clarify, i meant to say that they survived the F5 tornado that hit Alabama last year.

  3. Irehs says:

    My parents live in Alabama and were blessed enough to survive while 36 people on their street were killed. Their property and their neighbors property were literally destroyed—it looked like a war zone. FEMA didn’t arrive in the scene until 3 WEEKS later, yet a Baptist church in Tennessee were on the scene THE VERY NEXT DAY! They removed trees that had fallen on their house along with removing the more than 100 trees that were strewn about all over the place. They did this for other neighbors as well. They brought donations of food and clothing because people literally were left with nothing. Other church groups in the area did the same thing. These groups organized and delivered the donations PERSONALLY without the aid of the Red Cross. I think that people who suffered through Sandy would appreciate the effort to collect donations and I imagine many groups were able to distribute the donations themselves without all of the red tape that waiting on FEMA requires. It is truly sad that you try to denigrate people for wanting to help in their own way. This is what Americans do in these types of situations. We all need to help. I’m sure that the Red Cross wants cash and I’m sure that many people have donated money to help. Any and all help is needed and the Red Cross is certainly not the only entity that can do so. I don’t know why you are so mean-spirited about people helping. If you were in the same situation I have a feeling you would be grateful for whatever help you could get-no matter where it came from. Examine your heart. There is no reason to be so ugly about this.

  4. mike31c says:

    Remember this as a preview of yet ANOTHER failed GOP plan to ‘help’ people:
    1) Unable to follow directions
    2) Giving people ‘stuff’ that are of no use
    3) Bask in the fading glory that is not theirs.

  5. Attyinny says:

    Very funny.

  6. Attyinny says:

    Obama didn’t just fly in to take a picture. He was actually meeting with people who were in charge of the relief effort. He was helping to coordinate and expedite things. Presidents do stuff like that. You may have noticed how often local public officials thank the president for his efforts.

  7. Joan says:

    Red Cross should call Occupy Sandy to pick up the donated goods (before they are sorted).

  8. Bettie says:

    It is just another example of how out of touch Romney is with the way the real world works. He doesn’t have a clue. It especially exposes his lack of knowledge about how disaster relief works–guess he’s never donated to anything but his church. No surprise there.

  9. Dakotahgeo says:

    Rmoney/Lyin’ Ryan— the gifts that keep on screwing you!

  10. TheOriginalLiz says:

    Romney is a typical “seagull manager” – swoop in, shit on everything, fly out. This fiasco is just more proof of that.

  11. caseyf5 says:

    Hello torsten,

    Thank you for self-identification as to where you are located on the Stanford-Binet IQ scale.

  12. caseyf5 says:

    Hello torsten,

    Referring to “FEEBLE” aka FEMA it has been decimated from what it was. See the jackass in charge during the Bush Junta as a prime example. Getting his photo published was much more important than leading the effort to mitigate the disaster in NOLA.

  13. Plisko says:

    Im interested how you plan to avoid being an “idiot” and get your house out of the way of a hurricane next time one is coming at you?

  14. Plisko says:

    It can cost $25 per canned good to get it where it goes. So you are not making a donation. You are making an anti donation that takes rather than helps. I think thats worth pointing out.

  15. caseyf5 says:

    Hello Outspoken1,
    This sounds like a need for an auxiliary group to assist with disaster recovery.. My choice is local government in the “civilized parts” of the globe (sarcasm intentional).

  16. microdot says:

    Yeah, Leave Mitt Alone! WAAAAHHHHHH!

  17. Gail Turley says:

    This happens after every disaster, and with organizations other than the Red Cross as well. People, most of them well intentioned, donate things they think people will need, instead of what organizations trying to help are saying they need. For example, recenly the relief agencies were saying they needed undergarments out on Staten Island, but they were getting everything BUT that.

    I remember after one disaster the relief organizations kept getting clothes, clothes and more clothes. It all had to be sorted, and washed, and transported… However well intentioned, it DID take resources away from the actual relief efforts just to go through the items and find out what was even usable, since some people tend to donate things they think are okay, but really are not.

    The Red Cross probably really doesn’t need a lot of canned goods, and that’s what I kept seeing in some of these photo ops.

  18. Its the logistics problem stupid. Getting the goods to an auction still requires logistical support.

  19. Naja pallida says:

    Considering how large they are, the Red Cross actually has a pretty impressive expense ratio, with over 90% of donations going to their various programs, and only about 4% for operating expenses. The rest is split amongst fund raising, public relations, etc. Their accounting is available publicly.

    The only issue I would have is that unless for some reason you put a specific caveat on your donation, which I understand they try to honor, when you donate money to the Red Cross, it doesn’t necessarily all go specifically for the cause you think you may be donating for. They do many, many things… so your dollar could be going to any number of different causes, even though most likely the most immediate thing they are dealing with is where it would end up. But if they pull in more donations than they deem necessary for their Sandy relief efforts, the excess will be redirected elsewhere without the donors having any knowledge of exactly what their money is being used for.

    The simple fact is, cash is much easier to get exactly what they need for a particular situation. What if food isn’t the problem, what if it is blankets? Or bottled water? Or flashlight batteries? Or medical supplies? Etc. With cash, they can be much more fluid and effective in how they respond.

    Regardless, there are no end of food banks and other organizations which do have the capability of dealing with physical donations. It seems silly that they don’t have an extensive network of contacts in those areas who they can just call and say “Please handle this.”

  20. Of course the FEMA response with Katrina was led by an incompetent Bush flunky.

  21. FauxReal says:

    Donations of used clothes, goods not only takes time for sorting but also often requires the group to use funds to transport and store the goods.

    I volunteered at the Javits Center after 9/11 and truckloads of stuff came in. Those truckloads were sent to warehouses for holding.

    Our first impulse after a disaster may be to go through our closets and pantry but it really isn’t that helpful.

  22. emjayay says:

    I understand why the Red Cross PR person wanted to be diplomatic and not jeopardize future donations and government support (particularly if Romney had won), but they should have stated that the Romney event donations of goods, including the $5000 worth of goods the campaign bought at Walmart, would be simply diverted to local food banks. Along with any other such donations. That is the only cost effective way to deal with in-kind donations. A bunch of canned food and diapers etc. collected in Ohio costs more to get to Staten Island and the Rockaways and New Jersey than it’s worth. And guess what: this stuff is not needed there. It’s already available in nearby nonflooded stores.
    What was actually needed was the power company crews that FEMA flew there on military transport planes, complete with their trucks and cherry pickers. Shelters or motel vouchers for the displaced. Clearing trash by garbage collection agencies. And ultimately deciding how or if housing should be rebuilt in low lying coastal areas. (Answer: No. The oceans are rising. Some coastal and barrier island areas are no longer appropriate for housing.)

  23. colleen2 says:

    Sad little Republican, so full of hatred and entitlement,

    A person would have to be living on Kolob to hold up Katrina as a success story.

  24. Mapratz says:

    Red cross wants cash, a request not much different than political candidates. Cash is easier to use to fund the operating costs of an organization, humanitarian or not, what is their expense ratio?

  25. FLL says:

    collapse/ignore? Huh?

  26. ezpz says:


  27. FLL says:

    I am trying to be nice. Why do you bother kissing up to a few ignorant stinking relatives who are going to throw you out of their house during the holidays anyway? Why not join the national consensus that wants to solve the nation’s economic problems (or cliff) without caving in to sadists and sociopaths like Paul Ryan? You know it’s the right thing for the country, so why not do it? Tell Uncle Zeke and Aunt Hattie to go whistle up a drain pipe. I’m offering you my suggestions in a spirit of sympathy because I think you’ll be better off (and happier) by joining the majority of the country.

  28. ezpz says:

    And I love the (-) collapse/ignore function.

  29. ezpz says:

    What a nice guy you are NOT!

    And I bet you call yourself an inclusive, big tent liberal, one who sets himself apart from the RW hate mongerers, right? Guess what? You’re no better than the tea party. Not one iota.

  30. FLL says:

    The election may be over and Mitt Romney may be gone, but guess who’s still around? Paul Ryan, which means:

    (1) Going to soup kitchens and washing pots that are already clean—in order to block any progress in Congress.

    (2) Accepting counter-productive donations of canned goods—in order to block any progress in Congress.

    (3) Selling his Ayn Rand BS about a return to the economic policies of the 1920s—in order to block any progress in Congress.

    Tell you what, ezpz, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and conclude that you don’t support Paul Ryan’s proposal to obliterate every bit of progress going all the way back to FDRs New Deal. So, ezpz, I’ll give you an easy peasy suggestion to help allow the White House and Congress to avoid financial catastrophe. Tell YOUR STUPID RELATIVES to stop supporting Paul Ryan and his Tea Party cronies. Now don’t be coy. You know who I mean. Uncle Zeke and Aunt Hattie and all the other idiots who keep voting Tea Party just to spread misery. And after you do that, change your user name.

  31. Pacific says:

    So if your house is wiped out by a hurricane, instead of relying on any organized help such as police/fire departments or federal/state government agencies since we know that Republicans think they are an unnecessary expense, you’ll wait for a church to help you and everyone else who may need it? Good luck with that.

  32. torsten says:

    You’d have a point if you had a point. Too bad your dream falls apart in reality. IN Sandy, oil companies were able to get in and deliver oil, as FEMA couldn’t get bottles of water in. In Katrina, you’ll love this, the mormon church, which has the pretty much the biggest and most rapid response team, was on the ground before FEMA.
    These are but two examples in the most politicised storms the media can hypocritically promote to the favor of democrat slime.
    Try again.

  33. d3331892828 says:

    Sell the canned goods at a food auction, use the money to buy supplies.


    Americans Are Buying Expired Food At Auctions To Save Money

  34. torsten says:


  35. torsten says:

    So the Red Cross only wants money?

    The didn’t like Romney, a presidential nominee, bringing attention to their charity during a disaster relief effort?

    Obama spoke about the Red Cross. Obama flew in and toured the disaster to get his photo op. Where’s the bitc- blog about that?
    Don’t get me wrong — since I’m not in the 47% (and since I’m not an idiot in LA or NY/NJ who doen’t get out of the way of a hurricane) none of this impacts me to a measurable degree, I just hate the double standard and how they who employ it only do damage to those they claim to champion.

  36. Blozzyblozzy says:

    And by the way, what a great photo op it would’ve been to have seen all 4 candidates–Romney and Ryan, Obama and Biden– giving blood. It might have inspired a lot of folks of all political stripes to donate something that is REALLY needed

  37. caphillprof says:

    The political class on the networks this morning don’t seem to have realized that Obama won and Romney lost; we may need for a very, very, very long time to keep pressing this reality home to the political class, especially the Republicans.

  38. colleen2 says:

    “Why the need to continue the hate mongering towards Romney?”

    Because the GOP needs to be exposed for what it is and thoroughly discredited. Pointing out that the privatization of disaster relief is spectacularly bad public policy and demonstrating the results of such a policy is not “hate mongering”, it is a decent and responsible thing to do.

  39. HolyMoly says:

    Did you not read the entire article? Specifically the AP quotation where “[t]ransporting and distributing a simple donated can of food can be $15 to $25”? In this case, Romney’s donation is NOT a donation. Not only does it turn into a logistical nightmare, but a costly one at that. Costly not only in the sense of manpower, but also by the fact that large chunks of the monetary donations they receive are diverted to transporting a can of Spaghetti-Os, rather than used more efficiently and cost-effectively to help those in need.

    Organizations like the Red Cross have been doing this sort of thing for decades. I think they know best how to maximize their resources to provide the best relief possible. They are “businessmen” of a sort and seem to be quite a bit more successful and knowledgeable about how to operate a business than Mr. CEO President could ever wish to be.

    And to be honest, it was obvious from how his “relief effort” was simply a political rally and that collected supplies were held up so that they could get a few photo ops. They were doing this for no reason other than to help themselves. If someone in need was actually helped by their efforts, that would merely be “collateral damage”…or “collateral relief” or whatever you’d want to call it.

  40. SkippyFlipjack says:

    In this case, no it’s not the gift that counts — it must be frustrating to work for the Red Cross and see thousands of dollars wasted like that.

  41. ComradeRutherford says:

    No, a donation is not a donation when the organization has no way to deal with material goods! Forcing materials on the Red Cross diverts crucial resources away from disaster relief.

    Clearly you have no clue as to how the real world works.

  42. ComradeRutherford says:

    It is a disaster to force materials on an organization that has no method to process them. Your ‘why can’t they just’ means that staff has to be diverted from their critical, time-sensitive work to deal with crap they can’t use. If you want to donate goods, give them directly to the food banks and homeless shelters, not the RC.

  43. ComradeRutherford says:

    Forcing materials on an organization that does not have the infrastructure to deal with them is flat out wrong.

    I’ve read a number of know-nothing idiots demanding the Red Cross accept the stuff they can’t deal with, even calling for boycotts of the RC because of this.

    The Red Cross does not accept material goods of any kind, please do not force them to deal with your donations of material goods because you are too dumb to pay attention.

    Donating material goods for disaster relief is a great idea, just don’t force them on organizations that can’t deal with them, such as the Red Cross. Give the RC money, so they can respond to disasters properly.

  44. Naja pallida says:

    I’m sure Occupy Sandy would be happy to accept your gracious offer to volunteer, to see first hand the level of effort that goes into handling the logistics of material donations.

  45. Naja pallida says:

    Romney losing the election doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a douche bag. And what good are donations that may never see the people they were intended to help if the proper logistics are not there to deal with them? That isn’t a donation, it’s a waste.

  46. Outspoken1 says:

    Yep, just throw it ‘away.’ Oh wait, there is the expense for landfill space … ‘There is No ‘Away” magic place where ‘things’ just easily disappear.

  47. Outspoken1 says:

    This (sorry to say) simple-minded comment ignores the problems of logistics with donations of products. They must be sorted, verified that the food is not expired (which quite often happens!) or damaged, trucks must be found to ship, locations must be found to distribute, volunteers must notify and staff the donation center, and ALL of this work takes away staff and time from the existing needs. ‘Someone’ should take care of it or ‘someone’ should be more grateful will not make ‘someone’ appear out of thin air to wave a magic wand and ‘fix’ everything. Experienced disaster and emergency agencies know what works and whet they need. Don’t force them to waste time to re-explain the logistical problems.

  48. ezpz says:

    The election’s over; your guy won. Why the need to continue the hate mongering towards Romney?
    As others have said, donations are donations. If it’s that much trouble, let them toss the stuff.

  49. Well I read the entire article and I think a donation is a donation is a donation. To much complaining and not enough appreciation.

  50. docholly says:

    Have them call OccupySandy and someone will pick them up. Direct help in the places that need it. No red tape, grateful for all donations.

  51. microdot says:

    Why didn’t you read the article instead of your simplistic knee jerk response? You answered your own question by reiterating the reason why this is a logistical nightmare for the Red Cross. Use your ability to think. An organization trying to cope with an immediate disaster has to divert staff to first organize these cans of Chef Boyadee Ravioli and Jiff peanut spread coming in, figure out
    where it should go…your simplistic answer of homeless shelters and food banks, and then organize the physical transportation of the stuff to the homeless shelters and food banks. Why don’t you just come over in your car and drive the stuff yourself if it’s such a no brainer. Cheezopeeza!

  52. XJT says:

    Why can’t they simply redirect the goods to food banks and homeless shelters which have become seriously depleted because of the economy? I get your point about Romney, however I hardly think these donations amount to a “disaster.”

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