AIDS Ride sites and articles
The End. Pallotta Teamworks Out of Business.
Official AIDS Ride: site
Part 1: AIDS Riders Gear Up for Controversy
by Jim Provenzano
They are described as heroes, athletes making a difference, going the long haul, testing their endurance, and all for a cause.
The brochure displays a picture-perfect array of diversity - gay men, African-American grandmothers, straight Latinas, even a handicapped wheelchair rider.
It is, of course, the AIDS Ride, or to use the full trademark-filled moniker, TanquerayTM California AIDSRideTM 6.
Some who have lost family members to AIDS, like Liliana Peņeranada, are prominently featured in the Ride?s brochure. Her brother, Nestor, died in 1996. She has participated in AIDS Rides in his memory.
Many like her see the AIDS Ride as a physical way of proving their active participation in an event "to undergo a physical challenge."
The brochure claims 25,000 people have participated in the nationwide events, raising $55 million. On another page, though, 33,000 riders are credited with raising $90 million.
But the net profits are much lower at several recent rides. One question remains unanswered: where does the money really go?
By the tone of half a dozen recent gay newspaper editorials, this misguided herding tactic is how riders, and AIDS charities, have been treated by Pallotta Teamworks, Inc., aka Pallotta and Associates, Inc., the Los Angeles-based for-profit company that has been sued, fined and maligned, yet defends its high fees and continues to secure contracts with charities around the country.
Chris Cole, national director at Pallotta TeamWorks told the Dallas Morning News that 15 percent on $3 million is a good investment. "They couldn't have done anywhere near that by putting their money in the bank or the stock market."
That comment struck Boston's Bay Windows editor Jeff Epperly. In a March editorial, Epperly slammed what he called Cole's "hubris. Giving money to a charitable event is nothing like investing money in stocks. One is about individual investors making a private profit and accepting the risks associated with capitalism; the other is about taking the hard-earned money of well-meaning people who expect that most of their money will go to help the charities involved. For Cole to compare money-making to money-giving suggests that he and his company have their moral compass broken."
Vermont's Out in the Mountains called it "The WalMart of AIDS benefits." Like WalMart, Pallotta Teamworks allegedly reaps bigger profits each year. Rides in the last two years in San Francisco/Los Angeles, Washington, DC, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Milwaukee/Chicago, Boston/New York and Houston/Dallas had one consistent pattern:
Wisconsin, 1998: Agencies netted a mere 6.5 percent, or $52,000, from last July's 500-mile Twin Cities-Wisconsin-Chicago AIDS Ride. This April, Editor-in-Chief William Attewell's In Step News scathing editorial said, "Pallotta has blamed the disturbingly low ratios of net proceeds vs. High production costs on everything from Mother Nature to low gay support to logistical problems."
Florida, 1997: The Ride was called "an unmitigated disaster" by SF Frontiers, raking in less than $300,000 while costing $1.2 million. This year AIDS service agencies banded together to create their own ride, shunning Pallotta.
Texas, 1998: The first Houston to Dallas AIDS Ride returned just 15 percent of its gross. "We trusted them, and we got screwed," Byron C. Trott, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in San Antonio, told the Dallas Morning News. His group is one of 10 in Texas to permanently shun Pallotta Teamworks, who, Trott said, aim "to make money for themselves and not to provide help for people with AIDS."
Pennsylvania, 1997: Pallotta Teamworks was taken to a Philadelphia court for misrepresentation in a 1996 Ride. They settled a civil action for $110,000 after the state's attorney general found the firm guilty of misleading the public about net proceeds.
The problem? Demographics. Low turnout. Less affluent and/or gay people. Yet Pallotta and Associates take a fee of around $180,000 to $280,000, no matter the success, failure or location of the event.
Cyclists defend it for what it means to them, particularly some San Franciscans, to whom the AIDS Ride has created a subculture and social network in a community nearly wiped out by AIDS.
As the start date's eve, June 5 - ominously termed Day Zero - approached, the Bay Area Reporter talked with several participants - past and present - on what the AIDS Rides mean to them. Also interviewed in upcoming articles are community activists, and former employees of - and contractors with - Pallotta and Associates.
(all articles copyright 1999 Jim Provenzano/Bay Area Reporter)
Berkeley man sues AIDS Ride organizer
(04-25) 00:03 PDT SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --
A Berkeley bicyclist has sued the organizer of the AIDS Vaccine Rides for allegedly misrepresenting how much money raised by the events ends up going to medical research.
Mark Cloutier, who also is a lawyer, on Wednesday sued Los Angeles-based Pallotta Teamworks in San Francisco Superior Court. He alleged the company has misrepresented and mismanaged the amount of money distributed to nonprofit agencies for AIDS research.
Pallotta organizes several bicycle rides across the country to raise money for AIDS research, breast cancer research and other causes.
Cloutier said Pallotta delivered less than one third of the $28 million it received from the Vaccine Rides to charities that conduct AIDS vaccine research.
"The promise of the AIDS Vaccine Ride was that it would help raise much-needed funds for research and development of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS," Cloutier said. "I was greatly disappointed and so were many other well-intentioned riders who were misled."
Pallotta spokeswoman Janna Sidley dismissed the suit as "wholly and entirely non-meritorious."
Cloutier is seeking class-action status for his suit to represent all riders who have participated in the fundraising rides during 2000 and 2001.
Pallotta Teamworks has been embroiled in another legal battle with the organizers of the AIDS/LifeCycle ride, which scheduled a competing event weeks before Pallotta's ride June 2-8.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center accused Pallotta of mismanaging the event and said they're better off running it themselves.
(For more updates, please go to Part 8: Lawsuits, Loss & Lifecycle. )