Monday, January 19, 2009

Veterans ball canceled, organizer missing

Veterans ball canceled, organizer missing

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jan 19, 2009 14:15:20 EST

If you bought tickets to the Veterans’ Inaugural Ball, plan on staying home.

The ball, which was to be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., has been canceled and the promoter, Dante Hayes of the nonprofit Congressional Education Foundation for Public Policy, cannot be located for an explanation.

As of 1:30 p.m. Monday, the links on the foundation’s Web site where tickets were sold — at prices topping $385 apiece — no longer work.

The St. Regis referred questions about the canceled ball to a phone number they had for Hayes, whom they identified as the sponsor and promoter. No one returned voice mails left for the foundation.

The Commander-in-Chief’s Ball at the National Building Museum and Heroes Red, White and Blue Ball at the Warner Theater are separate events and are still scheduled take place Tuesday night.

Performance artist Michael Israel, who paints large murals to hard-pounding music in front of crowds, said he had been scheduled to appear at the Veterans’ Inaugural Ball but was notified last week by the hotel that the event had been canceled because the sponsor had not met financial obligations.

Israel, who had already shipped his equipment to the hotel, said he had worked with many charities over the years but “never has it been so difficult.”

“An awful lot of promises were not kept,” Israel said, adding that Hayes “dropped the ball at every turn. We had been warned by some charities that things were not right, but the warning came too late.”

Israel said that after being invited, he and his staff reviewed the foundation’s Web site and investigated whether it was a nonprofit group registered with the IRS.

“It passed all of our checks,” he said.

Israel said he knew something was wrong when the Web site temporarily went down and his phone calls were not returned. The ball also had changed locations at least once, and there had been talk of changing yet again to another hotel, he said.

Israel had agreed to appear for free, but the sponsors were supposed to provide transportation and lodging and split the proceeds of art sales.

Israel did find another gig, though, and will perform at Virginia’s Inaugural Black Tie and Blue Dominion Ball, which is being held at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

A representative of one veterans’ group that initially had been working with Hayes said he does not know what happened.

“He had been selling tickets online, but there were some kind of problems that we understand are now being investigated,” said the representative, who asked to not be identified

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