Two philanthropic organizations are uniting to save celebrities like Hilary Swank and Beyoncé from the embarrassment of getting caught taking money from people or groups that abuse human rights.
Global Philanthropy Group, a celebrity-focused advisory firm, and Human Rights Watch on Thursday announced a free, confidential service to help stars and their handlers verify the records of people who want to hire them to appear at birthday parties and other private events.
It’s a response to an online brushfire that broke out last week involving Ms. Swank, a two-time Oscar winner. She accepted a reported six-figure payment to travel to Chechnya to attend a lavish ceremony that turned out to be a birthday party for Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the Chechen president whose rule, international critics say, has been marked by abductions and torture.
After suffering public criticism, Ms. Swank apologized and said she would donate her fee to charity.
These kinds of “oops-I-didn’t-know” moments have been happening with greater frequency as top stars, looking for ways to make up for diminishing studio paychecks, have become more comfortable making paid appearances. In March, Beyoncé said she donated to Haiti relief efforts the money she received to perform at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by the son of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Trevor Neilson, president of Global Philanthropy Group, said he hopes celebrities will use his new verification service “to ensure that they do not find themselves in a situation where they appear to be supporting people who have done terrible things.”
The service can be accessed via firstname.lastname@example.org.