Scholarship money dwarfed by lavish party spending

On Saturday, the media’s annual orgy of self-congratulation known as the White House Correspondents Association Dinner will bring together DC elites and Hollywood stars to celebrate the event’s supposed main mission — to distribute scholarships to aspiring journalists.

LOL In reality, the real reason someone shows up is for the party. When the hangover dissipates, the money given to high school students is easily overshadowed by the lavish expenditures required to put on the vulgar show.

Orbiting the main event, a series of pre and after parties hosted by the likes of CNN, NBCUniversal, Politico and even two Hollywood talent agencies are keeping the party vibe going all weekend.

The White House Correspondents Association said it has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships since 1991 and last year awarded a total of $105,900. To put that number in perspective, it’s less than what WHCA Executive Director Steve Thomma earns in a year, which was $108,258 in 2020, the most recent year for which tax documents are available.

Guests attend the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner at the Washington Hilton on April 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Tassos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Undoubtedly, it is significantly less than what the WHCA spends to produce dinner. The vast majority of the money raised each year at the “Nerd Prom” goes to pay for expenses like food, drinks and celebrity MCs – this year Comedy Central’s The Daily Show host Trevor Noah will do the honors.

In 2019, WHCD raised $777,300 but cost close to $560,000, according to tax returns. That year, the group distributed $118,000 in scholarships, meaning the WCHA spent nearly five times as much on the party as it distributed to students.

View of the gift bag during the TIME and People’s White House Correspondents’ Association cocktail party at the St Regis Hotel on April 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Time and People)

Put another way, the WHCA spent only 15% of its share on its so-called primary goal of helping to promote the next generation of reporters.

Entry cost for this year’s dinner is $3,500 per table, which news organizations like CNN and Jeff Bezos owned by Jeff Bezos. Washington Post will gladly pay for the opportunity to rub shoulders with politicians and celebrities.

At previous dinners, there were up to 260 tables, meaning Saturday’s event could fetch up to $910,000. (This year’s prom will likely feature slightly fewer tables due to lingering coronavirus concerns.)

California Representative Nancy Pelosi attends the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner at the Washington Hilton on April 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Tassos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The WCHA said it had “allocated” $131,500 to this year’s scholarship round, meaning that scholarship awards could represent less than 15% of the money raised.

Then-President Donald Trump boycotted the annual WHCD during his tenure, calling it “boring” and “negative”. Given the organization’s bizarre spending priorities, it’s also a bad business.

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