Ricky Gervais is having so much fun at the expense of the Golden Globes. But he’s the least of their problems. (Won’t it be hilarious if NBC forces the Globes to bring Gervais back as host next year?)
Yes, it seems like everyone is suing the Golden Globes. A recap: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is being sued by its former publicist Michael Russell. Now a charity called Stars for a Cause is also suing them. Russell got the HFPA involved with Stars for a Cause a few years ago.
But here’s a twist: one of the main beneficiaries of this Stars for a Cause, according to their Federal tax filings, has been…ta da..Michael Russell! Stars for a Cause has three Form 990s on file with guidestar, which records the finances of US charities.
In 2006, all the money donated to Stars for a Cause–$20,000–went to Michael Russell. In both 2007 and 2008, Stars for a Cause paid Russell $39,500. It does seem like, on paper, the cause involved in this charity was…Michael Russell.
Stars for a Cause is run by the Braunstein family–Beverly Hills attorney George Braunstein is their leader, and his wife and daughter are the officers.George Braunstein told me: “We pay Michael Russell for access to the stars. We wouldn’t have it other wise.”
In 2007, the Braunsteins had a celebrity auction (celebs autograph things) and raised $225,000. Of that, they gave $30,000 to the Hollywood Museum. Another $51,000 went to office expenses including a whopping $26,000 for postage. Braunstein was paid $4,050 for renting Stars for a Cause space in his law offices.
Braustein says the postage was for shipping rare prints to an art exhibit they sponsored.
In 2008, same deal, with a twist: the Braunsteins donated $60,000 to Friends of the Prince’s Trust. Their two other donations: $250 each to AIDS Project Los Angeles, and to Loyola High School.
Russell got his usual $39,500. George Braunstein paid himself $13,000 in legal fees, and $5,500 in rent. The charity listed a $75,000 deficit for the year.
Another line of expenses. coming to almost $9,000, was for travel and entertainment.
But what about Russell? It does seem from the Stars for a Cause Form 990 and the HFPA’s own filing that he was making substantially more in fees from Stars for a Cause than from the HFPA. Was Stars for a Cause paying him for his access to the Golden Globes, meaning movie stars who would promote their causes? Yes, Braunstein says. “Michael Russell had been in the business a long time and knew everyone.”
Braunstein says when Stars for a Cause files its Form 990 for 2010 donations to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief, UN World Progra, Greenpeace and Oxfam will be recorded. Each was tied specifically to a celebrity.