The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Real Housewife who’s all about charity has a foundation that barely gives out any money.

Katie Rost’s family foundation doesn’t do much charity. (Photo by: Tommy Garcia/Bravo)
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On Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Potomac,” cast member Katie Rost is identified as a model-turned-philanthropist who runs her family’s charitable foundation. In the world of reality TV that means attending glittery events and planning fundraisers.

Aside from conveniently supplying opportunities for drama-laden plot points (which other Housewives will be on her “host committee”?), the not-quite-a-job provides Rost’s raison d’etre. “I’m a ball and gala girl,” Rost boasts in her show-intro tagline. “It’s my legacy and my calling.”

In reality — not to be confused with reality TV — her foundation, which is devoted to giving underprivileged kids recreational opportunities, is almost non-functional, having doled out only a few thousand dollars to a smattering of charities over its decade of existence.

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In a letter posted on the Ronald F. Rost Foundation website, Rost, 36, writes about how her father, who died in 2000, shared with her his love of skiing, tennis and other activities. “All children should have the opportunity to have these wondrous experiences, and more, open to them,” she writes.

But according to public records, the foundation (created in 2006) raises almost no money — its sole source of income is from Rost’s mother, Geico executive Rynthia Rost. Rynthia Rost’s donations, totaling about $32,000 over the last five years, are the only contributions to show up on federal tax forms. In that time, the foundation gave out less than $3,000. Donations are mostly checks of less than $1,000: $200 to the DC College Access Program and $450 to the Boys and Girls Club of America, for example.

The foundation spends far more than that in routine administrative, legal and accounting costs, records show.

“Other than offering publicity value, it’s really wasting money,” says Daniel Borochoff, the president of the watchdog group Charity Watch, after reviewing the organization’s history of tax filings.

When we got in touch with Katie Rost, she did not deny the foundation’s lack of action. But Rost tells us that there are bigger things on the horizon for what she called “just a small family foundation.” With her twin daughters turning three in July, she says she has more time to devote to expanding the funding base.

“We’ve been sort of in a holding pattern, but now that the kids are older, I can focus outside of being a mom,” she says.

Rost says much of her charitable work, like co-hosting an upcoming gala for Imagination Stage, has raised money that goes directly to the charity, and doesn’t pass through the Rost foundation coffers.