On Saturday, the annual orgy of media self-congratulations known as the White House Correspondents Association Dinner will bring together DC elites and Hollywood stars to celebrate the event’s purported primary mission: awarding scholarships to aspiring journalists.
LOL. Actually, the real reason someone shows up is for the party. When the hangover wears off, the money given to high school students is easily dwarfed by the lavish spending required to put on the vulgar show.
In orbit around the main event, a slew of pre- and post-parties hosted by the likes of CNN, NBCUniversal, Politico and even two Hollywood talent agencies keep the mood festive throughout the weekend.
The White House Correspondents Association said it has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships since 1991, awarding a total of $105,900 last year. 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.
It’s certainly significantly less than what WHCA spends to produce dinner. The vast majority of the money raised each year at “Nerd Prom” goes to pay for expenses like food, drinks and celebrity hosts: This year, Comedy Central’s the daily program host Trevor Noah will do the honors.
In 2019, the WHCD raised $777,300, but cost about $560,000, according to tax returns. That year, the group gave out $118,000 in scholarships, meaning the WCHA spent almost five times as much on the party as it gave to the students.
To put it another way, the WHCA spent just 15 percent of its stake on its so-called primary goal of helping foster the next generation of reporters.
The cost of admission to this year’s dinner is $3,500 per table, which is set by news organizations like CNN and the estate of Jeff Bezos. Washington Post He will gladly pay for the chance to rub shoulders with politicians and celebrities.
At previous dinners, there were as many as 260 tables, meaning Saturday’s event could raise as much as $910,000. (This year’s party is likely to include slightly fewer tables due to lingering coronavirus concerns.)
The WCHA said it has “allocated” $131,500 for this year’s scholarship round, meaning scholarship awards could account for less than 15 percent of the money raised.
Then-President Donald Trump boycotted the annual WHCD during his tenure in office, calling it “boring” and “negative.” Given the organization’s weird spending priorities, it’s also a rotten business.
Follow David Ng on Twitter @HeyItsDavidNg. Do you have a tip? Contact me at email@example.com