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August 17, 2015

Red Cross Head Sought to Stop Federal Probe of Relief Work

American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern sought congressional intervention last year to call off a Government Accountability Office review of the charity's disaster relief work, according to ProPublica and NPR.

In a June 2014 letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security, Ms. McGovern asked the congressman to "end the inquiry" he had initiated into how the Red Cross coordinates with the U.S. government on disaster response. She requested instead "that you consider meeting face-to-face" to discuss the issue.

The letter was obtained by NPR and ProPublica, which have cooperated on a series of investigative reports about Red Cross spending and management of relief projects. Despite Ms. McGovern's appeal, the GAO probe continued. A spokesman for the agency said its final report on the inquiry is expected to be released next month.

In a statement to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Red Cross said that it "worked cooperatively with the GAO to address their questions, provide interviews with disaster services leadership, and share documents about our programs. We had discussions with the GAO and members of Congress about the purpose and intent of the GAO study so we could respond in a way that would meet their goals. We also asked Congressman Thompson if we could answer the questions face-to-face rather than through a GAO study. Even though that did not happen, we continued to work with the GAO over the course of a year and a half until their study was complete."

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy article about the controversy over NPR and ProPublica's Red Cross reporting.