Part 1: Riders Gear Up for Controversy
Part 2: The Goal of a Community
Part 4: Inside Pallotta Teamworks
Part 5: Options & Alternatives
Part 6: Lost & Foundation
Part 7: Devotion Over Dollars
Part 8: 2001/2002 Update: Lawsuits, Loss and LifeCycle
Home: Plate

Clif Notes and Big Staffs

by Jim Provenzano
Bay Area Reporter

A major component of the California AIDS Ride, which began in San Francisco June 6 at Fort Mason Center, are the sponsors. They donate food, services and volunteer time to coordinate the large-scale annual events.

But even some sponsors have come under fire for their role in what many call the largest AIDS fundraiser ever. One critic claims contractors reap hefty profits from their participation.

This week, the BAR focuses on some of the companies working with Pallotta Teamworks, the for-profit company that produces the official AIDS Rides. Not unlike their elusive mascot Mister Jenkins, representatives from major sponsor Tanqueray have not been found by press time, but will hopefully be included in upcoming articles.

“It was well orchestrated to tug at the heartstrings,” notes Boston-NY rider Todd Davis’ web site of the 1995 ride’s finale. “But at the same time, we had just ridden 65 miles in a downpour and all I wanted was a bath.”

That bath may have been taken in one of the lumbering trailers furnished by OK’s Cascade, of Monroe, Washington, which, according to a former Pallotta employee, collects “huge sums” for their services.

“They provide meals and showers,” said John Haley, who worked on the 1996 Chicago-Twin Cites AIDS Ride and the Boston-New York 1997 AIDS Ride. “They’ve done it on every event” and were contracted and paid as “one of the biggest expenses. Every night the accountant would go over that day’s fee. He wrote them checks for $45,000 to $50,000 a day.”

“The lunches alone - bag lunches - are put together by the company,” said Haley. “You’re talking about a chicken salad sandwich, a bit of pasta salad and a Clif Bar, all budgeted at $12.50 each.”

Haley contends that these contracts are a form of sweetheart deal. “If Palotta’s not on the board, he’s certainly a shareholder.”

To find out, The Bay Area Reporter called Wade MacIntire of OK’s Cascade, the company Pallotta Teamworks hires exclusively to construct the “tent cities” around the country.

Bay Area Reporter: You provide the mobile units for AIDS Rides. How many are there?
Wade MacIntire: We have a number of units. We’re a logistic support compnay. We have mobile kitchens and mobile showers. For the California AIDS Ride, I think we use three mobile kitchens. We have four or five showers that we utilize, as well as a whole host of equipment, and a very large staff. We employ 40-50 people on the Ride to deliver the services, prepare the meals. We do all of the AIDS Rides and a lot of events for promoters.

What other events?
We prepare the meals. We’re a mobile caterer. The equipment’s only part of what we do. We also have mobile laundries. We can basically create a city in the middle of nowhere. We do lots of bicycle rides. The government hires us for emergency response events, like Hurricane Andrew. We’re a rapid response mobile support company. We’re certainly one of the biggest, because we have a lot of equipment and a lot of staff.

Are the AIDS Rides you do only with Pallotta Teamworks?
We’ve done stuff with lots of other agencies.

So, what are your rates?
What are my rates?

Yes. How much does it cost to produce one AIDS Ride?
I’m not even going to begin to get into that. That information is entirely confidential.

Well, with people raising millions of dollars, some of them have asked me to ask you where the money’s going.
It’s not our position to deal with that. What we get are countless responses from people saying how grateful they are for what we do.

Some AIDS groups have shown increasingly smaller net proceeds in several cities. Do you reduce your costs for non-profits or smaller groups?
There’s so many non-profit groups. If we donated all of them, we’d be broke and we wouldn’t be around or be able to do any of them, and if we weren’t around, they wouldn’t be able to do the AIDS rides. My point is , we give them a very fair value. It takes a lot of expensives resources to do what we do. We obviously make a reasonable profit on it, or we wouldn’t be doing it. They’re very intense events to do, but we’re not getting rich doing AIDS rides, let me tell you.

In recent years, newspapers in five cities have reported that AIDS rides have had disappointing proceeds because of increased costs. Directors of several AIDS organizations have said these costs are far too great.
We’ve been doing the rides for a number of years. We’ve held our costs steady. We’re employed by the Pallotta organization, and if we weren’t there to do the rides, nothing would be raised for the charity. When they get concerned about it enough and they don’t want to do the rides, I guess that’s the case but I’m not going to discuss what the rates are or our relationship with our clients.

Two cities have already organized their own rides. With 80 percent of the money not going to those it’s supposed to benefit, they seemed a little upset.
If they’re upset, I guess the rides will drop off, but at this point we work on them. That’s up to them to deal with all those issues. Many, many millions of dollars go to the organizations that are supposed to receive it. They wouldn’t get a dime of it if Pallotta wasn’t in the act, or companies like his.

Don’t you think that’s a bit single-minded?
Look, I’m not gonna discuss this with you. I’ve told you what we do: our equipment is very expensive. You can’t do the kind of thing we do without it, and if you’re sort of insinuating that we must be cuttin’ a fat hog, believe me, we’re not, and I don’t need to defend that with you, or anybody else.

Is Dan Pallotta a shareholder in your company?
It’s a confidential relationship and I’m sure you understand that.

120,000. That’s the number of “food items” donated by sponsor Clif Bar, including Clif Bars and Clif Shot, described as “an energy gel” which squirts out like the contents of a toothpaste tube.

Berkeley-based Clif Bar, Inc. is a corporate sponsor of the AIDS Rides for the second year. Dean Mayer, Marketing Director for Clif Bar, said that his company is “involved in the most intense way. All employees have been offered the opportunity to ride at company expense. That includes people who have never been on a ride.”

Clif Bar is a growth industry all its own. Recently the company office was profiled in The Chronicle for its work-play environment, where employees are encouraged to “get motivated” by using an indoor climbing wall.

With such a hearty work environment, AIDS Ride participation fits in with their healthy image. “The company has an on-site gym and trainers,” Mayer said. “They can take classes. If employees don’t have a bike, we get them one. We’ll front the money for them at no interest.”

Clif Bar held an AIDS Ride kick-off party in February, as well as a rummage/bake sale. “Everybody’s doing what they can to raise money.”

Mayer said that seventy-five per cent of Clif Bar employees will be riding throughout the country. “The other 35 will be volunteering, working at a booth at different stations. Essentially if they’re not riding, they’re volunteering.”

Clif Bar co-founders Gary Erickson and Lisa Thomas are also riding in the California Ride, he said, along with about a dozen employees. In a company of 80 people, Mayer claimed a six-figure allotment of paid services to support riders. “If you go, your flight, your hotel, your time away is paid for by Clif Bar.”

Riders who raise greater amounts of money enjoy the privilege of riding as Team Clif Bar, complete with name brand logos and priorities at photo opportunities.

At the mention of funding problems, Mayer bristles, and shifts the subject. “AIDS is is an important issue for us. As the world begins to forget about AIDS, we don’t see that. We know that it’s still important. We want to maintain public awareness.”

When asked to comment on the exhorbitant costs of recent other rides, Mayer said, “It would be nice if all the money went to AIDS, but you can’t run a fundraising effort without having some overhead. I can’t make a judgement about the amount that used or spent. You’re bringing in new people and millions of dollars that wouldn’t be there.”

He claimed that of the gross totals of $100 million raised, approximately 57% will go to AIDS service groups. “Much of that 60 million wouldn’t have gone to them without the AIDS Rides.”

San Francisco AIDS Foundation financial summaries confirm this. According to a brochure produced by the Foundation, costs for the California AIDS Ride 5 were only 37.6 percent. Rides in previously years have ranged from 46.6 percent in 1994 to nearly 40 percent on subsequent rides.

And even if these figures remain high by comparison to less elaborate fundraisers, for Mayer, it’s a cost worth paying.

“They need someone to motivate them,” he said. “They need to feel strong enough about the cause. A lot of people wouldn’t do it anyway. Which would the people want, $60 million or nothing?”

Although American Airlines is a corporate sponsor, the airlines travel agents direct riders to is United.

Despite the highly-publicized boycott based on legislation formed by gay Supervisor Board President Tom Ammiano, and encouraged by dozens of community groups working with United Against United to fight discriminatory employment benefits practices, Pallotta Teamworks’ travel agents use United Airlines for the California AIDS Ride. Despite being a corporate sponsor, American Airlines has no Los Angeles - San Francisco flights.

Some travel agents for the California Ride, particularly Cornish Travel in West Hollywood, have instead referred riders to SouthWest Airlines.

The United controversy is one issue that disturbed AIDS Rider Paul Remagen. “I can’t believe AIDS Ride is using United as a carrier,” he said from his East Bay home in Lafayette.

The self-described “asymptomatic long-term survivor of HIV” is an avid cyclist and “borderline extreme skiier.” His lover, Roy M. Coe, wrote the book “A Sense of Pride: The Story of Gay Games II ‘86,” before dying of AIDS in 1994.

Remagen acknowledges the controversies of the AIDS Ride finances, but will ride anyway. He’s also been asked to be a media spokesman for the Ride. Despite this, he’s open about his misgivings. “I’ve raised questions and they haven’t been answered.”

“Some people have not donated because of feelings about the AIDS Foundation. They are not in agreement about how it spends its money.”

Friends had tried to get him to participate in the past, but he “wasn’t happy about the policies,” specifically, the rift between county agencies, with San Francisco and the AIDS Foundation getting the lion’s share of proceeds.

Remagen’s concern stems from his living outside San Francisco, and issues that are not the fault of Pallotta’s company, but how the cash is dispersed.

His agency, the Contra Costa County AIDS Task Force, which became the AIDS Project Contra Costa, annually got around $70,000 from early AIDS Walks (a separate event not produced by Pallotta Teamworks). When the San Francisco AIDS Foundation took over the AIDS Walk, Remagen said it dropped to around $20,000.

“The money that people from other counties raise doesn’t come back to our county,” such as AIDS Project Contra Costa. That group recently collapsed under financial problems, he said.

So why is he riding? “I’m a longterm survior, eighteen years with HIV. I’m still alive and capable. I wanted to experience it for myself.”

Remagen puts in about 130 miles a week in training. The former Physical Education teacher raised in Florida and Los Angeles has lived in the Bay Area for 17 years, has an informed perspective on “the Pallotta scandal,” and is “not happy about it at all,” not the usual viewpoint of an ardent AIDS Ride supporter.

“They need to be held accountable,” he said. “The focus needs to be there. People think a lot of the money is going to AIDS funding when in reality, it’s not.”

No matter where it goes, Remagen has raised $4,400. “I thought I’d have difficulty in the past. Having to raise $2,500 made it elitist. For people with AIDS, that’s a lot of money.”

Yet, he hasn’t had problems raising it. Although he doesn’t consider himself rich, living in a wealthy suburb has helped.

Remagen believes that the AIDS Rides can be restored to a sense of accountability, “if enough pressure is brought to bear,” he said. “If Pallotta doesn’t organize it any more, it could return to what it used to be. I hope so.”