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The Givers and Takers of the Boston Bombings

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Businesses large and small jumped in to help Boston survive the horrific events of last week. Some companies were more altruistic than others.

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Catastrophe can bring out the best in us: generosity, altruism, and a sense of fellowship with perfect strangers and entire communities. For far fewer of us, tragedy also means opportunity to play off people's sympathies and exploit them for personal gain.

Then there are the inbetweeners who do their part to help but not necessarily out of selflessness. Charity tax deductions aside, some giving comes with strings mighty enough to tether an ocean liner to the dock. Take PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) in the wake of Superstorm Sandy: Nearly a week passed before the corporations pledged supplies to the relief effort and, when they did, they required a regular-program-interrupting press conference to make sure all of our consumer eyeballs saw it.

Here, Minyanville takes a look at the various examples of do-gooding and do-badding in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.


The Takers

Just as the good guys wasted no time getting to work to help others, so did the fraudsters waste no time getting to work to help themselves. According to TheDomains.com, as of 7 p.m. EDT last Monday, at least 125 Boston Marathon-related domain names were registered with many deceptively acting as charity sites.

Thomas Shaffer of Fort Worth, Texas, created bostonmarathonrelief.com; Bostonmarathonvictimfund.com and bostonmarathonvictimsrelieffund.com were registered by Jason Ischia of Melrose, Massachusetts; Earl Sranton, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, nabbed Bostonrelief2013.com; and bostonmarathondonation.com, bostonmarathondonations.com, bostonmarathonfund.com, and donatetoboston.com were privately registered at namecheap.com.

A suspicious underscore, a conspicuous lack of followers, and a new and unverified status called out @_BostonMarathon and its pledge "For every retweet we receive we will donate $1.00 to the #BostonMarathon victims #PrayForBoston." The account was found to be a fake and Twitter swiftly shut it down.

The immediacy of digital media brought the horrific aftermath of the explosions in photo form all over the Web in no time at all. So-called author Steve Goldstein used his right click savvy to save more than 60 of those images from the Associated Press, Getty, and the New York Times and compiled them in eBook form. The following day, Boston Bombing (First Photos) was available on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) as a digital Kindle download for $7.99.

Bob Carey, former president of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), spotted the listing, downloaded it, and found it be be "as disgusting as it appeared" (complete with Goldstein's copyright). The matter was brought to the attention of the appropriate parties and their lawyers. Within an hour, Amazon pulled it from its online catalog.


The Inbetweeners

Thanks to Steven Brill's brilliant cover story in last February's Time magazine about the senselessly prohibitive costs of health care, it seems hospitals and insurance companies stand to make the biggest charitable impact to this tragedy. Estimates of the medical costs to treat victims' physical injuries alone are expected to hover around $9 million.

So while Aetna's (NYSE:AET) gesture to open support lines to victims, regardless of insurance coverage, in need of phone counseling and emotional support, is certainly a kind one, maybe there's just a smidge more that the $900 billion private insurance industry could do in cooperation with hospitals to curb these mounting medical bills.


The Givers

Within minutes of the Tsarnaev brothers' alleged attacks near the finish line of the race, donations to assist the city and its over 170 wounded victims with mounting medical bills started pouring in from individuals as well as the business community. To date, more than $10 million has been raised by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menin's non-profit One Fund Boston.

Hit at home, New England's sports franchises were some of the first to spring into action with financial relief. Owners of the Patriots, the Kraft (NASDAQ:KRFT) family, have pledged to match the first $100,000 in donations made to the New England Revolution Charitable Foundations. Meanwhile, the Red Sox, Major League Baseball, and the MLB Players Association made a $646,500 joint contribution and will also give 100% of proceeds from the sale of baseball caps bearing the "B Strong" emblem.

Likewise, the Boston Marathon's official sponsor Adidas (ETR:ADS) is kicking in $750,000 from the sale of limited edition "Boston stands as one" T-shirts that have reportedly already sold out with more currently in production. The profits from this year's batch of the the Boston Beer Company's (NYSE:SAM) annual marathon brew, the Samuel Adams Boston 26.2, are also going to the relief effort.

The $1 million gift-givers include the Boston-headquartered John Hancock Financial (NYSE:MFC), AT&T (NYSE:T), former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, and financial services holding company State Street Corporation's (NYSE:STT), which is expected to raise seven figures with a $500,000 foundation donation along with matching donations from all employees. Twenty miles west of Boston in Framingham, mega retailer TJX (NYSE:TJX) has pledged a half million.

Fundraising websites like GoFundMe.com and GiveForward.com are also being earmarked for victims of the bombings. Brooke Gibbs' Bucks for Bauman! page has raised over $577,000 to help her friend, double amputee, and star witness Jeff Bauman Jr., pay for surgery and medical bills. Seriously injured mother and daughter Celeste and Sydney Corcoran will also have $577,000 and counting, thanks to a fund created by Alyssa Carter.

According to a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management in 2011, prosthetics are covered by 70% to 75% of employer-sponsored insurance plans. For those who are not covered by insurance, prosthetics can cost approximately $40,000 per limb.

Gibb's fundraising goal for Bauman is $1 million.

The tech industry's charity organization, Technology Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG), exceeded its $200,000 fundraising goal and is seeding 100% of its fees to programs identified by the Mayor's office, hospitals, and responder teams as being most in need.

To a far lesser extent, major airlines and hotel chains eased some of the penalty burdens on travelers whose reservations needed amending after the bombings. Among the participating airlines were AirTran, American (NYSE:AAMRQ), Delta (NYSE:DAL), JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), Southwest (NYSE:LUV), United (NYSE:UAL), and US Airways (NYSE:LCC). Hilton (NYSE:BX), Marriott (NYSE:MAR), and Starwood (NYSE:HOT) hotels also let guests off the hook for fees normally incurred for canceling or leaving early.
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