Miss A Columnist

Andrea Rodgers is the Founder of Miss A (AskMissA.com), which covers the intersection of charity and lifestyle for 1.5 million unique readers annually. Based in Washington, DC, Miss A has a presence in 21 U.S. cities with 30 editors and hundreds of writer. Andrea was inspired after 9/11, and became heavily involved in Washington’s charity circuit in an effort to give back to the community. At the core of the Miss A brand is Andrea’s personal belief in the positive power of volunteering and charity — not only to benefit those less fortunate, but to improve the individual, business or brand that gives their time, money and energy to a cause. AskMissA.com serves as a technological platform which connects editors, writers and readers around this core belief and shines a spotlight on the best nonprofits, charity events, cause marketing campaigns and philanthropic & stylish people, businesses and brands to inspire others to get involved.

Andrea Rodgers is a member of the Vogue 100, a hand-selected group by Vogue magazine of 100 influential decision makers and opinion leaders across the country known for their distinctive taste in fashion & culture. She has been featured in Vogue, W and Allure, CNN, Fox News, NOS Dutch Public Broadcasting, TV Tokyo, France 24, Alhurra, USA Today, Washington Post & Politico.

Swinging Polo Mallets with Tareq and Michaele Salahi

kids celebrities and cc girls

The girls who took over The Courage Cup with Juan Salinas-Bentley, the face of Ralph Lauren: Nacho Figueras, Salvatore Ferragamo, and the kids of Work to Ride at The Courage Cup 2006

The Washington Post is leading the media on the White House “Crasher-gate” story. Yesterday, I received more media inquiries about Tareq and Michaele Salahi and my experience with them. I knew the day would come that I would have to share this saga publicly. I figured it would all be dragged out when and if NY State Assemblyman Greg Ball runs for Congress. According to Roll Call , Greg has now decided to run for the NY Senate. I will state this is all my memory, my experience, my inside take. It’s all alleged and the rest of that lawyer-speak. I do not want to libel or slander the Salahis or NY State Assemblyman Greg  Ball.:

andrea with john walsh

Photographed with John Walsh who played in the 2005 Courage Cup

I met Tareq and Michaele for the first time at the 2005 Courage Cup, which I attended as a spectator. Tareq and Greg were involved in organizing  the Courage Cup before I and some other friends of mine were asked by Greg to take on the responsibility of planning the 2006 event. There had never been an official corporation set up.

When the girls and I began to plan the 2006 event for the Poolesville location, we contacted the 2005 vendors to make plans and came to find out that vendors had never been paid from the 2005 event. The girls and I set up a proper corporation, opened a bank account, and filed for 501(c)(3) status. We have always had pro bono attorneys advising us, and have done everything by the book. We held small fundraisers and paid off the debts that were left behind.

NY State Assemblyman Greg Ball

NY State Assemblyman Greg Ball

Tareq and his Oasis Winery were the wine sponsors for the 2006 Courage Cup, which we decided to move to the beautiful, new Sheila C. Johnson polo field at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA. Tareq pulled his wine sponsorship two weeks before our event. He allegedly wanted to play in the match but didn’t want to pay like the other players, so we had to scramble to find another sponsor. As part of his tantrum over not being allowed to play, he used bullying tactics to try and get two of my girlfriends fired –one from Hunton Williams who had generously donated her time to set up the nonprofit, file the paperwork for our 501(c)(3) status and to help us with contracts, and one from the Washington Redskins where he tried to use his leverage as a skybox suite owner to get her fired from her sports marketing position.

In June 2006, The Courage Cup match was held in conjunction with the Ambassador’s Cup and the inaugural exhibition match played by the First Chukker Foundation. The guys in First Chukker were our friends and had suggested we bring the event to Great Meadow. All the women involved with The Courage Cup 501(c)(3) had real jobs, and the time involved and stress of some of Tareq’s antics led the other two women involved to leave  The Courage Cup — one for her career and the other to plan her wedding.

One of the Work to Ride kids at The Courage Cup in 2006

One of the Work to Ride kids at The Courage Cup in 2006

I added additional people to the board including Lezlie Hiner, an amazing lady who founded the Work to Ride program for at-risk youth in Philadelphia. a non-profit, providing disadvantaged urban youth from Philadelphia with constructive activities centered around horsemanship, equine sports, and education. Located in Fairmount Park, the setting provides a unique opportunity to bring 7-to 19-year-old youth in contact with animals and nature. While most participants are trained in several sports, polo has proven to be the perennial favorite of Work to Ride youth.In 1999, the Work to Ride polo team became the first African American polo team in the nation, and in 2005 the team won the Eastern Regional Interscholastic Polo tournament. The program has been featured in Sports Illustrated, and was twice highlighted on HBO’s “Real Sports”.  They have to keep up their grades, and Lezlie is like a second mom to them. Some of the kids in the program even learn polo, and are extremely talented. Several kids have gotten scholarships to Valley Forge Military Academy, and are already being scouted by Cornell and other universities that have polo programs.

The 2006 Courage Cup was a great success, so it wasn’t surprising when later that year Greg Ball who had won his seat began to threaten legal action to take control of the Courage Cup. I and others involved had invested a lot in setting up an official nonprofit, paying off debt left by Greg and Tareq, holding a successful event, and raising money for the kids of Work to Ride.  I could have folded up shop then, and perhaps I should have, but I really wanted to make it work and wanted to continue to help the kids, and I certainly didn’t want to hand it over to Greg Ball and Tareq Salahi, neither of which I trusted to run a 501(c)(3).

In 2007, Greg Ball sent a mass email out to thousands of people in the Greater Washington, DC area telling everyone something to the effect that Greg was in charge of the Courage Cup and the match would be held at Morven Park in Loudoun County with Tareq Salahi. He basically said that we were unauthorized and that people shouldn’t have anything to do with us. The Washington Post even picked up on this foolishness. The Courage Cup issued a press release in January to correct the erroneous information Greg had sent out to the Washington community. After some emails and phone calls between our attorneys, I had to meet with Tareq, Michaele, Greg Ball and his entire entourage at Akin Gump, the law firm which provided pro bono legal services to The Courage Cup.  There was a cloud of negativity and uncertainty over The Courage Cup which made it very difficult for me and my committee to find sponsors for the 2007 event. A compromise was reached after The Courage Cup board member, Phil Karber who is active in the polo community and sits on the board of Great Meadow informed Charlie Muldoon what Greg had been doing with The Courage Cup. Charlie had not been aware. Phil suggested we put Charlie and Tareq on the board of The Courage Cup. After the bullying behavior Tareq exhibited to me and my girlfriends, I told Phil I’d rather dissolve the charity than put Tareq on the board. We added  Charlie to the board, and then Phil Karber, Charlie Muldoon and Lezlie Hiner issued a joint press release about the controversy.  In June, right before our match, The Washington Post’s Reliable Source unearthed the reason why bills from the 2005 event had never been paid — the money had been funneled to Greg’s NY State Assembly race.

The Courage Cup 2008

The Courage Cup 2008 (Photo credit: Joseph Allen Images)

Tareq created the allegedly scandal-ridden America’s Cup after not being able to get control of The Courage Cup, and his event became somewhat of a competitor of The Courage Cup, as we were targeting the same corporate sponsors, celebrity polo players, and attendees, Like most things Salahi, . Tareq’s America’s Cup was over-the-top.  They promised a big famous rock concert, and the Queen of England, and our Courage Cup couldn’t and wouldn’t want to compete with that, so needless to say support shifted to the America’s Cup, and some of the new polo fundraisers that were sprouting up. After a few of the America’s Cup events, sponsors and attendees became increasingly unhappy with various issues of the America’s Cup events. Several corporations around Washington want nothing to do with polo after their experience with America’s Cup. I feel like this negative impression and the surrounding drama has hurt other local polo fundraisers.

I have stayed away from all things America’s Cup and Salahi, but in 2009 I was doing event planning, PR and creating the website for Innocents at Risk. The Salahis asked the Founder of Innocents at Risk to be a charity partner for America’s Cup. I recommended the charity not associate themselves with the event, and was skeptical that it would

Work to Ride at The Courage Cup 2008

Work to Ride at The Courage Cup 2008 (Photo credit: Joseph Allen Images)

raise any money for them. Due to scheduling issues, I had to represent Innocents at Risk at a “press conference” Tareq and Michaele held before this past May’s America’s Cup match. From the looks of it, most of the “press” were the America’s Cup’s own cameras. As far as I know, Innocents at Risk never received money from America’s Cup aside from Tareq handing me his America’s Cup credit card to pay $40 for one of our fundraisers. I do know that after the America’s Cup in May, Tareq and Michaele asked Innocents at Risk for $2,500. I am no longer consulting Innocents at Risk, so I’m not sure what became of this. Soon after the May 2009 event, Tareq Salahi threatened to sue the great guys and gals of First Chukker Foundation.

Below is an excerpt from the Post’s latest update, but I highly recommend that my readers read the article in its entirety.

Tareq Salahi, 40, a polo player and wine expert, was also running up a sizable number of detractors.

He got involved in the Courage Cup, a polo match launched in 2004 by Greg Ball, a former Air Force officer. Salahi was later one of the board members who sided with Ball in a bitter feud (involving e-mails blasted to hundreds of area polo fans) over who controlled the event — Ball, or the two women he asked to run it in 2006 while he pursued a state legislature seat in New York.

A Post investigation later found that as much as $10,000 in ticket sales to the Poolesville, Md., match — though widely advertised as benefiting polo training for underprivileged kids — ended up in a political action campaign started by Ball, and eventually into his campaign treasury.

Salahi then launched America’s Polo Cup in 2007.

He and the event were sued for more than $300,000 by Market Salamander, a high-profile catering operation in Middleburg in 2008, alleging nonpayment of services for a Polo Cup event that was widely panned. (The Salahis counter sued.)

Market Salamander officials did not return calls Friday.

This spring, the organization hosted a United States-Italy polo match, with performances by Huey Lewis and the News and fireworks to benefit the Journey for the Cure Foundation, a Salahi-run charity that said it raised money for childhood diseases.

But the next week, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sent out an official caution noting that the foundation had, as of three days after the event, “not registered with or been granted the appropriate exempt status by the Commissioner as required by law.”

The organization’s Web site now lists a federal tax ID number. It was not immediately clear whether the warning from the state has been resolved.

– Miss A

P.S. Looks like NY State Assemblyman Ball isn’t too pleased that the Washington Post and I are bringing this back up. I will not be intimidated. See the email I received from someone at Ball4NY.

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