Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Let's publish Katrina contributions from business and political leaders

Almost immediately after Katrina devastated the gulf coast, an item in the newspaper reported that Walmart had donated a million dollars to both the Red Cross and to the Salvation Army for hurricane relief. The company later donated an additional twenty million dollars to the Katrina Relief Fund. There are undoubtedly people across the country, critical of the retail giant’s free enterprise policies and practices, who softened their opinion, if only a little, when they heard of the gifts.

Right wing politicians have often criticized members of the “Hollywood Elite” for being critical of their conservative point of view. Republicans have charged that they “blame America first,” for example. One Internet smear of Hollywood political views that was widely circulated during the last election campaign painted movie stars as dim bulbs with little education compared to the giants of the political world who possess college degrees, and, therefore, know better about everything. Perhaps you saw that. At least once.

Of course, the Hollywood people have publicists and agents to report positive news about their clients. So it was not surprising to see published reports of generosity from various millionaire celebrities following Katrina’s strike. Still, one had to feel a tinge of warmth, at least temporarily, for the many stars who have made huge donations to the relief funds. I suspect there may even be Republican critics of Hollywood who were impressed by the immediate response and generous monetary gifts from so many athletes and members of the “Hollywood elite.”

A partial list includes athletes Phil Mickelson, $250,000; Lance Armstrong, $500,000; and Curt Shilling, who is housing a family of nine for a year. Movie star George Clooney gave one million dollars to United Way for their relief efforts; Celine Dion contributed a million dollars; Steven Spielberg, 1.5 million. Hillary Duff gave $250,000. Pat Sajak sent $100,000 to the Red Cross, and Jay & Diddy gave a million dollars.

Sean Penn is said to have rescued forty people stranded on roof tops and in submerged houses. As one magazine reported, he had his own photographer recording it all, but then, “how many people did you save?” Harry Connick, Jr., went to New Orleans and offered comfort. So did Kirstie Allie. Numerous other stars and celebrities also got there before federal aid had arrived.

There have been concerts with performers donating time and talent to raise money for the stricken areas. There will be more.

A number of corporations besides Walmart have given money and materials. The list includes GE, 16 million. Starbucks contributed five million; Office Depot, 18 million; Anheuser -Busch, one million; and Eli Lilly contributed a million dollars plus a million dollars worth of insulin.

Organizations have sprung up to help with the clean up. Project Backpack was started by sisters, 14 and 11 years old. They collect supplies for the thousands of displaced school children starting classes far from home. UPS is shipping the supplies free of charge.

Other nations are even offering aid to America! USA TODAY reported on many of them. A few examples: Afghanistan is sending $100,000. Australia is contributing $7.6 million. France sent forty tents, water treatment supplies and MREs. India gave $5 million. the Arab-American Oil Company (ARAMCO) of Saudi Arabia contributed $5 million. And the United Arab Emirates are giving $100 million, cash.

There is a much longer list of contributors, of course, but one can see from these few examples that the response has been widespread from athletes, movie and tv stars, companies, and other governments.

And that brings me, at last, to the point of this rant. There are two groups of citizens missing from every list of contributors I have seen, so far. They are groups who could use an infusion of public support, feelings of public good will, and a little praise for what they also must be doing to help the survivors of Katrina. I want to see lists of politicians and of business leaders who have made personal contributions.

Hollywood stars have their publicists. Perhaps CEOs and politicians need theirs. Most politicians want to take credit for anything good that occurs. Why, then, are they not letting the news out about their individual contributions to Katrina relief? If they give anonymously from a stance of altruism, I want them to rethink their positions.

“Altruism” is defined as “Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.” I recall a professor some years ago arguing that true altruism does not exist, or if it does, the acts are unknown. His contention was that true selflessness meant that one committed an altruistic act for absolutely no personal benefit. And that, he claimed, should include no feelings of pride or personal warmth from having done the act. Absolute selflessness. Of course, that also means that no others would know of the deed. Have politicians ever before been altruistic, then?

Given that definition and argument, one could suggest that all the known contributors of time, money, and goods for Katrina relief also are not truly altruistic. So be it. Their contributions are needed, welcomed, and are helping. So what if Walmart’s image might have been boosted slightly among a few critics? So what if Sean Penn had a photographer along? So what if the celebrity contributions are reported for the rest of us to praise? They are praiseworthy.

President Bush asked his father and Bill Clinton to reprise their duo post-Sunami act of money raising. We know they have raised millions... of other people’s money! I think it would not only be appropriate, but would also help generate good will and even more public giving if it were published how much each of those multi-millionaire ex-Presidents have also contributed. And President George W. Bush. Why not let us know how much he and Laura are giving from their own bank accounts?

How much have the many millionaire senators and representatives given? Wouldn’t knowing help their constituents feel pride in their elected officials and prompt at least some of them also to give?

Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Jimmy Carter, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Condoleeza Rice, Mary Matlin, her husband the “ragin’ cajun,” James Carville, as well as John Kerry, and Al Gore -- have undoubtedly contributed to the relief efforts. Some of their gifts may even have been reported, though I missed seeing the report. They deserve better recognition for their gifts.

Knowing Martha Stewart’s contribution to Katrina relief would generate more dollars from her legions of supporters as well as put an added glow to her image. How about Ken Ley? Wouldn’t you feel a tiny bit better about that former Enron CEO if you knew how much he has given? How much has Bill Gates contributed from his personal bank account?

How much has Exon-Mobil contributed from their record corporate profits? Microsoft? Google? Why should athletes and movie and television stars be the only ones publicly recognized?

Altruism may be morally ideal, but I tend to agree with my professor: Altruism is only an ideal. Various critics and the entire country, therefore, might feel better about those on my short list, and also the hundreds more CEOs, political insiders, elected representatives, and leaders of our society if their personal donations to hurricane relief were made public.


Anonymous Gen said...

If only people who wanted to have their name and reputation remembered and enhanced were the ones to give to Katrina relief I am sure there would not be nearly the support there is now. Some people give because they want to help not just to be recognized.

9/15/2005 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that lasty sentence of gen's is such b.s. didn't you read what the curmudgeon wrote? ever see a d.c.politician who didn't want credit for everything he did and everything else he could take credit for? the point that you missed is that liberals seem to be giving more than the compassionate conservatives, and if that is wrong, then why aren't we hearing about it? d.c. politicians would make damned sure their potential voters knew if they contributed anything other than public money. hang in there, curmudgeon. you have it right.

9/16/2005 7:23 PM  
Anonymous a believer said...

I agree with anonymous. Politicians are great at giving away piublic money.And they will keep it quiet if it is pork, except for their own districts. But when one rarely gives from his or her own bank account, they want voters to know. So where is the list of big bucks politicains giving to Katrina? They are about to give away billions in public money. How about giving a little of their the liberals they hate.

9/16/2005 7:29 PM  
Anonymous a believer said...

I agree with anonymous. Politicians are great at giving away piublic money.And they will keep it quiet if it is pork, except for their own districts. But when one rarely gives from his or her own bank account, they want voters to know. So where is the list of big bucks politicains giving to Katrina? They are about to give away billions in public money. How about giving a little of their the liberals they hate.

9/16/2005 7:29 PM  
Blogger Carola K said...

Thank you.

I will look at it as soon as I have some time, *a busy girl*.

9/19/2005 9:52 AM  
Blogger trackingprojectbackpack said...

On behalf of its founders, thank you for mentioning project backpack! I've been asked to research blogs that have mentioned the cause and to spread the word of a new project underway by the PBP founders.

has been started in hopes of helping hurricane victims via telephone. More information can be found at the website. If you're able to help with some of your time and spread the word that would be terrific.

9/24/2005 12:23 PM  
Anonymous simonsez said...

You have a great point. More and more celebrities are giving big bucks, and if the filthy rich politicians are, too, then they are sure being quiet about it. And that just ain't like politicians!

9/25/2005 7:25 PM  
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