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posted on 12 October 2015

Senator Wants Names Of Red Cross Officials Who Didn't Cooperate With Government Inquiry

by Justin Elliott, Propublica

Special Report from ProPublica

Sen. Charles Grassley is demanding more information about the American Red Cross and its "apparent unwillingness to fully cooperate" with a government investigation into its disaster relief work.

Grassley asked the head of the Government Accountability Office for a list of material the Red Cross refused to provide to investigators, as well as the names of officials who didn't cooperate and any communications in which the charity explained why it was not cooperating.

Grassley, an Iowa Republican, wrote in a letter recently to the head of the GAO:

"The lack of transparency is cause for concern as the Red Cross is a federal instrumentality created by Congressional charter and receives millions of dollars every year from donors across the country"

The GAO report, released earlier this month, explored the Red Cross' government mandated role in responding to disasters. It found that there is no regular oversight of the Red Cross despite a string of flawed disaster responses. It also recommended Congress find a way to fill that gap.

In his letter, Grassley cites Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern's attempt to kill the GAO inquiry last year. As ProPublica and NPR reported, McGovern asked Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who had initiated the GAO investigation, to end the inquiry and instead call her cellphone with any questions.

The head of the GAO inquiry said earlier this month that the Red Cross had not given "unfettered access" but that investigators were able to get the information they needed "to sufficiently answer our research questions."

GAO spokesman Chuck Young said Monday the office will review Grassley's request as they do whenever lawmakers ask for additional information. This process typically takes several weeks, he said.

Red Cross spokesperson Suzy DeFrancis has previously said that the group worked "cooperatively" with the GAO, made at least a dozen senior officials available for interviews, and "provided the documents GAO has requested."

Separately, Grassley is still pursuing questions related to how the Red Cross spent nearly half a billion dollars donated after the Haiti earthquake, another area in which he has criticized the group for a lack of transparency.

Here is Grassley's full letter to the GAO.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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